‘Thin Place’, 10 January – 28 February 2015, Myrddin Gallery, Carmarthen
A blast of fresh air came to Wales last week with the opening of this exhibition by five contemporary visual artists: Jonathan Anderson, Ailbhe Ni Bhriain, Adam Buick, Christine Mackey and Flora Parrott.
It would be misleading, however, to think of it as merely another exhibition. It is more of a large scale project, for ‘Thin Place’ incorporates writers as well as artists. As Meg Anthony of the Gallery explains:
‘The Thin Place concept is vast: incorporating explorations on life, death, the human condition, the Otherworld, as well as places and signifiers that articulate the boundaries between the now and the after.’
I can feel myself breathing a sigh of relief. At last, we can get back to asking the Big Questions again, instead of pretending that nobody cares about them anymore. After all, who honestly goes through this short span of life we experience without asking what it’s all about? Shouldn’t art be leading the way in these debates and exploring new pathways in these borderlands?
When I arrived at the Gallery the space was so full that it was impossible to get in. Lively conversation and a vigorous perusal of the work on show, punctuated by gusts of good-natured laughter, wafted from the doorway till a few bodies finally squeezed out and left enough space in their wake for me to squeeze in.
The beautifully produced exhibition catalogue captures and anticipates the buzz of energy evident at the Preview. Curator Ciara Healy puts it like this:
‘What if we could create a greater permeability between disciplines? Might it offer us a new means of coping with the complex socio-ecological issues that face us today? Thin Place is an attempt to overcome the perceptions that the human and non-human worlds are distinct. The artworks, essays, poems and papers presented in this exhibition aim to stir our languid imaginations back into remembering how cloaked the world is in multiple perspectives.’
I stepped into the exhibition space with great anticipation. I had come specifically to see Flora Parrott’s work. At once elegant and spare, her rigorous yet sensitive 3D pieces made a connection between the world we think we know because we can see it, and the world just beyond our line of vision, which we know nonetheless to be there.
‘Stalagmite Sculpture’, a tower of pierced stones, makes a visual bridge between the contemporary world and the most ancient worlds of human existence, between the twenty first century and times lost irretrievably in the mists of prehistory. Art spanning unknown aeons of time, something that art, unlike most disciplines, can do effectively.
‘Cave Ladder’ continues both the idea of linking the contemporary with the prehistoric, as well as with the spanning of cultures. It takes us to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, and his dream of angels ascending and descending on ladder reaching up to heaven as recorded in Genesis chapter 28. It is a powerful evocation of time and eternity.
‘Bone Circle’, likewise, creates an atmosphere that spans and combines cultures and civilizations. Cleverly conceived, it is a portrayal of the shaman and the priest, and the interplay between this world and that as they exist side by side.
I came away exhilarated. Life isn’t chopped up into small compartments after all. Existence does not revolve endlessly around sex and death and material culture. ‘Thin Place has created a space in contemporary thinking for a much wider and wiser debate. I hope to see much more coming out of this exciting project.