As the dust lifts...
Not so long ago I was at a crossroads, prompted by the inevitable end of my undergraduate degree (a terrifying prospect that can feel like falling off the edge and into an abyss!!). Not to worry too much, I am gradually finding my feet again, somewhere between my MA in Bath, an assortment of exhibition openings and events, and my curatorial internship with Artes Mundi. This is where I pop a toe into the world of blogging then…
It seems Cardiff has also turned somewhat of a corner with the long-awaited opening in June of the National Museum Wales’ seven new galleries dedicated solely to contemporary art. This blog then is a little delayed but nonetheless I have one thing to say, what a treat!! These new spaces no doubt mark an exciting chapter for Cardiff’s contemporary art scene, shining a refreshing light on a museum otherwise renowned for its extensive collection of French impressionist paintings, an unwavering dedication to Welsh art and artists, and not forgetting the legendary woolly Mammoth and Basking Shark.
Having been involved in the arts activity volunteer program throughout the summer, I have found that there already exists an invaluable interaction between children and the museum through its science and archaeology spaces and the Clore centre, which cater to curiosity and learning. As for the new contemporary galleries, I watched as individuals and families imaginatively received and interacted with Laura Ford’s figurative sculpture Glory Glory (Hat and Horns) 2005. Workshops for constructing hats, masks and postcards in the case of Tim Davies’ work, were brilliantly geared towards children actively engaging with artworks and some of the themes that arise within the new gallery spaces, those of identity and place.
Passing through the galleries on a weekly basis is an enchanting experience, for the first time I was able to realize the rewards of re-visiting the same exhibition. Having always been an admirer of Rachel Whiteread’s work, each time I passed her sculptureUntitled (History), (purchased by the museum, with the help of ArtFund in 2002), I found myself re-considering its form and how this cold material can resonate long after the original objects have gone. These passing but regular encounters were engaging in an entirely different way, in effect I already knew the artworks, but it was perhaps these moments of non-thinking that led me to ask new questions of the objects before me and their relation to space and surrounding works, as though entering into the unspoken curated conversation. My hope is that within these revitalized spaces, local people especially, will take the opportunity to really experience such processes of interaction and interpretation.
Image Courtesy of National Museum Wales, 2011. Photographed By Robin Maggs.
Crucially I feel that, as part of a capital city, Cardiff’s national museum has a responsibility to engage an array of individuals. As an art student myself I know that the opportunity to embed practice within gallery and museum environments is an essential and valuable one, but if there is one element that has maybe lacked previously it is this. With local universities (Glamorgan, UWIC and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama) producing our future creative minds, for me the National Museum Wales with its gleaming contemporary spaces, now has the potential and more importantly the opportunity to provide a new and dynamic platform for conversation within Cardiff.
There is already evidence to show the benefits of building relationships with external organizations; Artes Mundi’s involvement is a prime example, having provided the National Museum with the unique opportunity to define itself on contemporary and international levels over recent years. I wonder whether now is the time for an outlook that defines our national museum locally, amongst the people who will continue to lead new thinking and/or practices; here I refer to the need for a new focus on interactive relationships with our Further and HE Institutions. For me the National Museum Wales has an exciting opportunity to fuel a creative change, by actively inviting students and graduates to explore, question and engage in critical dialogue, maybe we could see a forward thinking museum space emerge, where discourse amongst our young adults, emerging practitioners and the museum could set a powerful benchmark for expanding visual and cultural awareness within the city.
Take a look here for a fascinating post on ‘Writing The Future’ within Cardiff.