The journey from London
via Birmingham takes four hours and forty-two
minutes and surprisingly, considering the recent appalling
weather and railway woes in general, the train
arrived in Aberystwyth precisely on time.
A short taxi ride to the seafront
plunged me instantly into the ambiance of an earlier
century which I could feel but not describe,
embedded in the colours of sea, sky, slate, iron and
the uniquely luminous green green grass of Wales.
My bed and breakfast was situated
at the far end of the windswept, mostly
deserted promenade facing the black sand beach and
fiercely foaming sea.
and her husband Andrew Vincent were staying in a hotel
nearby and we went for a very tasty dinner at
a Spanish delicatessen-restaurant which they had discovered.
Walking back afterwards we were treated to a spectacular
sunset, unlike any I've ever seen. Unfortunately I didn't
think of turning on the movie option in my camera and
missed recording the
iridescent splashes of blue gradually morphing into geometric
patterns and perfectly horizontal golden lines.
The opening of the exhibition was
the next afternoon. It's a long walk uphill
so I went with Mary and Andrew in their
car and had my first sight of the National Library of
Wales which occupies a stunning position high above
In contrast to its forbidding
institutional exterior, the Library's interior is warm
and welcoming, full of history and surprises.
At the top of a grand staircase is the entrance to Open
are greeted by three very different works cascading vertically
from the top of a tall glass case: Frank Vigneron's Le
Songe Creux 274 , GW
Book: Night and Day and David Gould's Exquisite
Corpses. I'm not
going to attempt a review of this excellent exhibition
but it deserves, and I hope will get, the attention of
the best critical minds/eyes wherever they may be, in
the art world and beyond.
All the works and details about
the artists are in the catalogue,
the whole of which is viewable online.
A big disappointment
for me was that Clive Hicks-Jenkins couldn't be at the
opening and was away the whole weekend. I was so looking
forward to a real-life encounter with the man behind
the fabulous ArtLog and
to seeing his work which I greatly admire. We
have never met but know of each other via our websites
and through mutual friends Frances and Nicolas McDowall
with whose Old
Stile Press we have both published
books. It was Clive who introduced
me via the internet to Mary Husted and
my presence in this exhibition is thanks to him,
to Mary and, needless to say but I'll say it, to my own...ahem...undeniable
The front of My Life stands
unfolded on a red plinth inside a four-tiered case. Floating
on a glass shelf above is Ou
Da Wei's Mountainous
Leisure while Alan Salisbury's trompe
on a Table recline
below and at ground levelTULU Girls by Sue
Williams cavort in a circle: three strongly individualistic
works whose company I am very happy to be in.
On the other side of the case,
the reverse of My Life is fully unfolded: the
red of the plinth serendipitously matches the reds
in my images. Above is Maggie James'
Peripheral Spaces, another work I'm glad to be
Clive Hicks-Jenkins' bold and inventive Alphabet
Primer draws you into its folkloric universe.
Mary Husted's Episodes are
glimpses into a rich inner landscape, giving you just
enough information to dream your own story.
After the introductory speches,
we gathered for drinks in a conference room. Mary
Husted is in the centre with Jaimie Thomas (in red cardigan)
the Library's Exhibitions Officer. Behind them in profile
is Mary's husband Andrew. There will be official pictures
of the exhibition, no doubt better than mine, and those
of us who were present at the opening were photographed
as a group - I'll post them when available.
Artists' books are notoriously
tricky to exhibit. Ideally they
should be shown as sculpture - upright and
free of enclosure in an invigilated gallery. But this
is generally a practical impossibility and curators have
a very difficult task trying to achieve maximum exposure
for each unorthodox object within given constraints
of space, lighting and available glass cases. In a group
show such as this one, with quite a large number
of concertina books, Mary Husted has done
and is doing a wonderfully enthusiastic, committed and
caring curatorial job and I trust she will succeed in
her aim to tour this terrific exhibition far and wide.
Meanwhile it is beautifully at
home within the magnificent National Library of Wales
and you have until September 22nd to walk, run, ride
or fly to see it.
Below are some more reasons why
I was very glad to visit Aberystwyth.
What's left of the 13th century Aberystwyth Castle.
I don't know this stone-caped gentleman's
name but he was obviously a distinguished professor since
he is immortalised in front of the Old
College on the seafront. What do you think the book
is that's he's holding?
my hotel room, before going
to the station to catch my train back to London.
I'll also be
posting a movie as soon as I've edited it.