the North Wales Coast in the Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno
is the Oriel Mostyn Gallery. The Mostyn Open of which the gallery
is famed, is in its fifteenth year and is a showcase for fresh new
developments within the visual arts. The competition has continued
to attract a strong field of artists, nationally and internationally.
There is uniqueness
to the Oriel Mostyn gallery in the provision of local handmade crafts
which stays true to its roots of being a Welsh art gallery. Walking
through the craftshop, the gallery opens up into an impressive space
which is amplified by the tall ceilings. Two rooms of reasonable
size with an additional room for video work provides excellent facilities
for exhibiting work. There is also an educational gallery and regular
workshops, residencies and lifedrawing masterclasses available.
On the whole, the gallery provides a cornerstone in North Wales
for contemporary art not seen unless you take a trip down to Cardiff
or over the border heading for the cities of Manchester or Liverpool.
It will be interesting to visit the Oriel Mostyn gallery after its
major expansion programme during 2005 / 2006.
15th Mostyn Open
Tania Kovats, David Alston and Martin Barlow.
As stated by
the host selector Martin Barlow in his notes, "The Mostyn Open
often appears as an early line in the biographies of many who go
on to develop successful exhibiting careers". This does in
fact ring true and highlights what an important competition the
Mostyn Open is for emerging artists. Although it may not have acquired
the status of East International in Norwich, it is certainly a match
against the Drawing prizes of Jerwood or Pizza Express. With a £6000
top prize it is certainly a competition not to take lightly which
is exemplified in over five hundred applicants from twelve countries.
Martin Barlow continues in that "For the thirty or so selected
there are five, ten, even twenty who are only ruled out, reluctantly,
in the last stages, who would be included by different selectors".
With all due
respect to Mr. Barlow, there were several who should not have been
selected in the final decision. That is not in direct association
with the quality of work, although some of it was poor, it is in
relation to the size of the space and the quantity of work exhibited.
It would be unfair to single out the Mostyn Open for this crime,
but it is a reoccurring theme in open competitions of machine gunning
the walls with work to the extent whereby it almost blends in with
one another like wallpaper. Thirty three artists exhibiting forty
six works seems a large amount of work for the space available.
I wondered if any of the selected artists had to compromise their
work to fit into what space there was available to them.
through the gallery, familiar names cropped up from exploits and
exhibitions in London, such as Susan Collis, Anne-Marie Creamer,
Ansel Krut and Kate Scrivener. Similarly, Stuart Lee last year’s
winner of the National Eisteddfod was included as was previous Eisteddfod
winner Sue Williams (winner 2000).
There were several artists in the show who caught the eye, in particular
representatives of video art. Tanya Axford produced an untitled
digital video of sound intervention set in Kielder Forest. In using
a myriad of digital alarm clocks, the rhythm and volume of Axford’s
piece increased to create a time scaled pulsating arrangement of
sound. Samantha Clark’s Reach 2004 offered a scientific
insight as night flying insects were caught in strange flight paths
fooled by concentric rays by a man-made single light source. Zatorski
& Zatorski offered a melodramatic battle symbolising the survival
of the fittest in two butterflies clashing on the surreal landscape
of a female body in a piece entitled Kokoro 2005.
A hypnotic and
highly addictive work was produced by Emily Russell & Kristian
De La Riva entitled Do we have to play this game? 2004.
A digital video animation triptych, the piece was created using
a technique called ‘rotoscoping’ which uses real life
video footage as the primary source for the animation. The subject
portrayed an almost innocent, yet highly charged eroticism of two
simply drawn, black outlined figures. The animated figures, possibly
the artists themselves perform slightly offbeat actions, complemented
with minimal sounds.
of interest included Andrew Bracey’s Various titles 2004,
a visual kaleidoscope of miniature canvases scattered on the wall.
Jane Thurley’s The Honest Sausage 2004 continued
the tradition of intricate collage, almost creating a ‘magic
eye’ image in portraying the countryside in various wallpapers.
Kate Scrivener produced All this was Alien 2004, which
appears from the outset to borrow from the 1960’s ‘Combines’
of Jasper Johns or Robert Rauschenberg. On closer inspection the
outer layer of many reveals the most delicate hand painted text
forming the shapes of jellyfish in what appears to be an abyss.
It was left
to Susan Collis to take away the £6000 Mostyn Open award with
work entitled The Oyster's our World 2004 and Paint
Job 2004. In having seen similar work by the artist from shows
in London, it was of no surprise in identifying her work on entering
the gallery. An unsuspecting viewer of her work might have assumed
that a technician had left an overall and step-ladder in the gallery.
On closer inspection the paint splattered step-ladder is in fact
a step-ladder painstakingly inlaid with mother of pearl, white opals,
cultured pearls, moonstone and diamonds, entitled The Oyster's
Our World 2004. Similarly, Paintjob 2004 appears to
be an old white overall used for painting and decorating but is
again a trompe l’oeil in that each mark on the overall has
been meticulously embroidered on. Although Collis creates illusions,
Rosemary Shirley writes, "It is not the subject of her work,
it is the device she uses to communicate her subject. She alters
the surfaces of things to scratch through the thin veneer of perceived
knowledge and meaning".
artist seems to be on a roll at the moment having picked up awards
of similar ilk at the Pizza Express and Jerwood Drawing prizes in
2002. There appears to be a niche in the market for this style of
work and Susan Collis innovation has filled the gap. It will be
interesting to see how this artist develops through future shows,
of which I am sure there will be many.