Question: when is a corridor not a corridor?
Answer: when it becomes an art space!
This is the creative idea that prompted the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff to contact Welsh universities Fine Art departments at the beginning of this year, looking for emergent artists to take up the challenge. I responded, filled in forms, sent images of the proposed body of work, and was scrutinised by the Arts panel before being offered the opportunity to set up a solo exhibition in the prestigious venue.
I must admit that I was a little puzzled about how exhibiting in a corridor would work in practice. The corridor in question is in the Ty Hywel building adjacent to the Senedd, and not usually open to public access. When I arrived at Ty Hywel, after a three hour long trip from Aberystwyth, two policemen and four porters sprang into action to help me and my companions unload nineteen canvases out of the trailer onto trollies. This was much appreciated as most of the paintings were three foot by four foot, and heavy to carry. Then there was airport-type security to go through. Yes, keys out of pockets, hand luggage of every sort into the trays, belts off, walk through the electronic archway holding your breath, terrified of setting the alarm off… You know the drill.
Once inside, the two ladies in charge of the project came to assist. Together, five of us arranged the canvases down the length of the corridor and on to the hanging system that had been installed. Groups of staff came through continuously, heading for either meeting rooms, or the cafeteria areas at the far end. With around six hundred staff in the building and many Assembly Members using the rooms, not to mention visiting foreign dignitaries, that particular corridor must be a positive M25 of activity once the Assembly is in session.
Of course, brightening up the corridor with art work entitles you to delicacies from the cafeteria, which we were generously treated to. After all, energy needs to be replenished at frequent intervals, as we all appreciate. But the real highlight of the trip was being taken to the Senedd building itself. Set just above the water, its strong, imposing facade commands a wonderful view over the sparkling waters of Cardiff Bay. To my delight, Welsh slate, the subject of my corridor exhibition was everwhere. I had not been expecting this, and I was delighted. Blue, grey, purple and studded, natural Welsh slate made the staircases and the floors of the Senedd a statement of Avalonian roots that Wales can be proud of. To think that the work I had been making at the School of Art in Aberystwyth (focusing on rock as a metaphor for compressed time), and on slate in particular (to give a sense of Welsh place), was to be displayed where it had a natural home was so rewarding. My bond with Wales has been deepened. Thank you National Assembly.
Exhibition ‘Time Beneath Our Feet’ by Carmen Mills can be viewed on request at the National Assembly for Wales, Ty Hywel .