Welsh monuments provide muse to modern masterpiece

Sunday 07 June 2015

Wales is well known across the world for its heritage and its arts and this year will see the two join forces as Welsh artists will work with local community groups to complete major projects at several of the country’s most iconic historic sites.

Castell Coch

Castell Coch

Cadw has partnered with the Arts Council of Wales to launch this year’s  ‘Artists in Residence’ programme’ – a project which aims to bring Wales’s unique heritage to life through interpretative art.

This year the programme will work closely with Communities First groups across Wales in an aim to reach under-represented audiences and to use arts and heritage to develop transferable skills for young people. Communities First is the Welsh Government’s flagship anti-poverty programme, which operates in 52 ‘clusters’ across Wales.

Six artists will be based at historic buildings and archaeological sites across the country over the next year, working with community groups on fun and engaging projects, using a mix of both traditional skills and conceptual approaches to capture and tell the stories of the sites in a creative and innovative way.

As well as contribute towards the final art pieces, participants in the workshops will be given an opportunity to develop skills ranging from literacy, numeracy, team working, communication and initiative – all of which contribute towards an individual’s self-belief and confidence.

The first residency for 2015 is taking place at Castell Coch, where conceptual artist Lauren Heckler and Welsh Artist of the Year runner-up, John Abell, will create installations on site over a three month period.

Lauren will use modern techniques such as sound, video and small sculptures to portray Castell Coch as an endless fairytale, while recording bat noises at the site. Whereas John will focus on creating a giant woodcut ‘triptych’ (traditionally a painting made up of three sections) to showcase the history of Lord Bute’s former summer house. Both Lauren and John will be running workshops with Communities First groups to contribute towards their final pieces.

John Abell from Cardiff, said: “From its medieval foundations to its Victorian opulence, Castell Coch has a colourful and yet surprising past, offering the ideal location to inspire exciting new pieces of art.

“The Artists in Residencies programme is a fantastic opportunity for me and fellow Welsh artists to display our work to a wider audience and get more people in Wales interested in art.”

Carmarthen-born Lauren Heckler, added: “Castell Coch was the vision of William Burgess – a true artistic genius. I’m excited to be working at this magical, wonderful building to create my own interpretation of Burgess’ endless fairytale.”  

Visitors will be able to see John and Lauren hard at work over the coming months, and enjoy the completed exhibitions on site later this summer.  

Amongst other Cadw sites participating this year is Bryn Celli Ddu burial chamber in Anglesey. The artist at Bryn Celli Ddu will document a two week archaeological dig, working closely with schoolchildren from Communities First areas on Anglesey and archaeologists in June to investigate the artistic possibilities of the passage tomb and surrounding landscapes. More residencies at various Cadw sites will take place during the autumn.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, said: “Cadw’s partnership with the Arts Council of Wales will allow Welsh artists to immerse themselves in our historical sites and draw inspiration from their surroundings to complete original and exciting new art.

The programme of residencies throughout the year will contribute towards the Welsh Government’s 'Fusion: Tackling Poverty through Culture' programme, which aims to improve life chances for disadvantaged young people and adults by providing opportunities to participate in stimulating and educational cultural activities and programmes.

It is incredibly important that we engage the public as much as possible in the creative journey and offer opportunities for them to participate and see step by step the research and processes involved in creating different art forms.

Combining the arts with the fascinating history of these sites is a great example of how Cadw is developing new ways to reach under-represented audiences, is using our heritage assets to develop skills and benefit others, and is bringing Welsh heritage sites to life to communities across Wales.”

Cadw and the Arts Council of Wales have previously teamed up at Caernarfon’s Segontium Roman Fort where artist Manon Awst developed a series of artworks inspired by Caenarfon’s rich Roman Past with great success.

Nathalie Camus at Arts Council of Wales, said: “We are delighted to work with Cadw on the Artists in Residence programme. Welsh heritage sites are a brilliant source of inspiration to any artist, with their rich history and majestic settings. The project not only gives the artists increased exposure and a base to launch their careers, it gives them business experience of working to a live brief.”

This year’s artist in residency programme at heritage sites will support an innovative new policy initiative, Fusion: Tackling Poverty through Culture announced by the Deputy Minister in May 2015. This is being implemented as a response to a recent report commissioned by the Welsh Government which identified that museums, libraries, archives, historic monuments and arts organisations are key resources that should be used more creatively to inspire people to learn and gain skills in some of our most deprived communities.

A key element of the programme will be linking cultural bodies more closely together with the Communities First programme, and the approach is being trialled in six ‘Pioneer Areas’ across Wales.  More information is available on the Welsh Government website.