‘Maps and Makers’ exhibition, 8 Nov – 8 Dec 2014, Gas Gallery, Aberystwyth
There is nothing more irksome than turning up at opening time to find that the gallery is still closed.
Constantly absorbed by issues relating to time, I wait hopefully for the best part of half an hour, expecting that no doubt the kettle has now boiled, and steaming mug in hand, a figure will soon emerge from the gloom, muttering darkly, and break into an apologetic smile as the door is unlocked to let me in. Not today though.
I stare disconsolately at the huge windows, conscious of the reflections of passing traffic. I check my watch. Optimism ebbs. Then I realize that I am standing in front of two free-standing structures, made of what seems to be fire-blackened brick, with a claw of twisted metal on one edge, like the searching hand of a victim trying to escape. Captivated, I scan the length of the gallery, my nose against the pane. There are works on paper and on canvas, a large map, what could be photographs or colour sketches in a neat row, a large colourful painting, and a collage of twenty smaller panels in a striking peacock blue. Copper plate? Board? I have no way of telling. I feel a surge of excitement.
I shuffle along the façade to the far window. I make out a cascade of paper flowing from the ceiling and spilling onto the floor, two framed large woodcut prints, and small glass-topped cabinets displaying sketchbooks and smaller works. The one nearest me declares ‘Maps of Mines in Cardiganshire’, topped by a length of rusty chain. I immediately think of the slave trade, but bring myself up short. Slaves in mid-Wales? Not a convincing scenario somehow. Perhaps it is part of the machinery of a mine no longer in existence? Does that make the display less attractive to me, I wonder? I am too far away to be able to tell.
I pull away from the window, my disappointment growing. I can see that much thought has gone into the hanging. There are floor sculptures, works on the wall clipped onto metal tubes, glass jars on the floor holding what I imagine is soil, and a long black and white length of either vellum or leather. I squint at the label next to the window and make out ‘Abaca handmade paper and collograph print.’ This work is about six feet long, suspended from the ceiling, and full of peaks and hollows and the delicate veining associated with rock strata, a delight to look at.
More minutes slip by. Another glance at my watch. Time to leave. What have I learnt from this viewing? For in spite of no admittance, I have gained from being at this exhibition. I have only been able to make out the names of two of the artists involved: Alison Lochhead and Judy Macklin. I make a mental note to get to know their work better as I inch away. As for the rest, that must be left for a future visit. If I ever make it.