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Strata Florida Abbey
21 Jun 2021

Throughout August 2021, Rebecca Wyn Kelly, will be sharing her creative responses to Strata Florida.

Cadw has announced that Rebecca Wyn Kelly will be artist in residence at Strata Florida, near Tregaron, from July to September 2021.

Rebecca Wyn Kelly is a landscape artist, who thrives on installing work in remote locations. By choosing to commit to the land, her work challenges what a studio or a gallery can be. The landscape is the foundation of her artistic practice, and the elemental materials she gathers are a catalyst for the work produced.

Speaking about the appointment, Dr Ffion Reynolds, Cadw’s Heritage and Arts Manager, said:  'Rebecca will be responding to the tranquil setting of Strata Florida, in mid-Wales – responding to the location, landscape and environment of this beautiful abbey’.

‘Rebecca proposes to use the theme of the ‘Genius Loci’ as a central thread through here work, opening up a range of new ways to ‘view’ Strata Florida, and we hope that this will create opportunities for the public to see the site in completely new way.’

Throughout August 2021, landscape artist Rebecca Wyn Kelly will be resident at Strata Florida Abbey, in mid-Wales, investigating the artistic possibilities of Strata Florida, a grand medieval abbey where generations of Welsh princes are buried. Strata Florida – Latin for ‘Vale of Flowers’ – has stood on lush meadows beside the banks of the river Teifi since 1201. Cadw’s Heritage and Arts Manager, Dr. Ffion Reynolds asks her a few questions about her site-specific exhibition.

1. What made you interested in the Strata Florida residency?

The artist's residency at Strata Florida has enriched my lifelong fascination with Strata Florida’s Genius Loci. Genius Loci is the impression the distinctive character or atmosphere of a place makes on the mind, body and soul. I sensed the Genius Loci of Strata Florida long before I had physically visited the remains. I grew up in Aberarth, a small coastal village on the west coast of Wales, 20 miles from the Abbey.

I have vivid childhood memories of being on the beach anticipating the unveiling of the Goredi. A Gored is the Welsh term for a fishing pool or weir, and at low tide, the remains of twelve ancient Goredi reveal themselves along the coastline. It was mesmerising to imagine that eight hundred years ago, the Cistercian monks fished in these pools. They also used the port in Aberarth to receive deliveries of bath stone, which they transported to the Abbey along an old pilgrim route called the Lon Lacs.

I was serendipitously connected to the monks because I was placed in Aberarth. They would have been acquainted with the wonder of the surrounding landscapes that were so familiar to me. They, too, were bewildered by the sight of the setting sun, gifting its audience with borrowed gold. The presence of their spirits on Aberarth beach sparked sympathy and kinship.

2. What kind of media do you use?

The elemental materials I gather are a catalyst for the work I produce. Natural materials are enchanting. To me, they are magical and unimaginable. I don't wish to destroy or dramatically change the self-contained quality of the articles I find. Instead, I want to preserve their beauty and become part of their journey by displacing or reworking them in some way.

3. Is there a running theme to the work you create?

There are many themes running through my work but the most important thing for me is to create a feeling. I draw from the raw and varied emotions of the landscape to guide my emotions and the work I produce.

4. How have you found the residency so far?

My time at Strata Florida has facilitated the growth of my cosmic connection to the monks. I've had time to consider their dignified way of life and allowed their stillness and contemplation to touch my essence and guide the work I’m creating in residency. It’s been an unique experience to be able to create installations and sculptures that will allow the audience to better appreciate and understand the site. I am trying to absorb the history and memory of the Abbey and sympathetically transfer that knowledge to the work. I want the audience to leave with an elevated awareness of the physicality of the space and my personal connection to the monks that lived there.  

5. Do you have any favourite pieces that you’ve created while you’ve been here?

I Think ‘Plunge’ resonates on a deeply personal level. I have bathed in all of the waters in the vessels, so the installation holds very physical memories for me. Idiosyncratic memories that the audience have to trust in.

6. What's coming next?

I am currently working on a commission for a piece at Yr Egin, S4C. The Project is called ‘Blaguro’ and the vision is to create a garden and art space on the grounds of the centre. I was selected to create one of five works that will be installed in the Autumn.

7. Where can we see more of your work?