So Many Different Suns
To embark upon Imago Mundi, a project whose aim is to promote a knowledge and awareness of art and, through this art, of the world, can certainly be described as audacious. However, like many curators and artists involved in this project before me, I soon became enthralled. It is a project of enormous scale and undoubted importance. A huge personal opportunity.
Karen Anne Pearce - Celebration (2015)
To curate a collection of work by any group of artists can in itself be a challenge; to curate a collection of work by a group of artists who are then constrained by shape and size however, could be described as foolhardy. I think it is inspired. Apart from the message this body of work conveys, I hope too that it will encourage artists to communicate with their audience and vice versa – from the outset. Maybe even collaborate – certainly on things such as size or shape. To ensure that any new piece of work becomes part of a collection or sits well within a particular space. Because as clearly demonstrated by Imago Mundi, I believe that to work within a constraint such as this, can actually stimulate creativity rather than stifle it.
Sue Powell - Puffin (2016)
The process of building this collection has certainly been enlightening.
The delight at being asked to curate a collection of work by 140 artists for the Welsh Collection was soon tempered too by the weight of that responsibility. How do you select a small group of artists to best portray the culture and heritage of over 3 million people?
Philip Huckin - Tirwedd Ceredigion (Ceredigion Landscape) (2016)
Shirley Jones - Untitled (2015)
The project became a reality on the day a box of beautifully packed virgin canvasses arrived... and with them came the first dose of reality. These were not 140, 10 x 12 inch canvasses (considered small in creative terms), but 10 x 12 cm canvasses. Much smaller in reality. Seeing each canvas secure in their individual packaging, I felt a sense of wonderment. These small, uniform frames were going to provide the substrate upon which 140 artists were going not just to unleash their creativity, but to convey a message about the Welsh culture; a culture so complex that in reality it would be difficult to contain in a piece 100 times the size.
Rick Smith - The Daffodil Field For Susie, Billy & Josh (2016)
And that’s where the conundrum began to unfold. My research of artists took me on a journey, not just across the length and breadth of the country, but much further afield too, in a quest to find artists whose roots were still firmly embedded in Welsh soil. And it soon became a journey of discovery too; discovering and learning more about the people and culture of this beautiful country. I quickly realised that the depth of pride and passion artists have for their land belies its physical size.
Sarah Goodgame - Pen-Y-Fan And The Beacons (2016)
Rhiannon Clarke - Untitled (2016)
But the challenge was much more complex than it first appeared. I had intended to select artists by style, medium, location, on the basis that they were professional, amateur or emerging artists. But of course they also had to embrace the concept of Imago Mundi. This wonderful explosion of creativity, there for future generations to experience creations, thoughts, ideals and memories; a snapshot of just a moment in time. Stopping the clock for just as long as it might take to create a unique and beautiful piece of work measuring just 10 x 12 cm.
Rachel Taylor Evans - If My Father Was The Head of our House my Mother was the heart (2016)
For those who shared this vision can undoubtedly be proud of the mosaic that began to emerge. For that is what it has become: a mosaic of colours, textures and style. Because although it is infinitely possible to research, select, cajole and encourage selected artists, as a curator you have no control over what exactly those artists will actually create. In reality, I doubt whether some knew themselves until they made that first tentative mark on canvas. The challenge also wasn’t just what to create, it was how to create it in such a small space. Many took some persuasion. There were many too that found working in such a restrictive space provided a new dimension to the way they might normally approached their work. And so it became a challenge on many levels.
Catherine Bhogal - A Valley Walk (2016)
Diana Jones - Exotic Plant (2015)
What soon became apparent too was that I was actually taking on the role of facilitator; enabling 140 people to have their say. And to visualise exactly what their country means to them. And it really is that message that is at the heart of this Collection. It may have been shaped by those artists that I researched, sought and selected, but ultimately it is their interpretation, their history, their culture, that comes through in this body of work. And given that for each person in this diverse country, they represent twice the area of that represented by the rest of population in the United Kingdom, it has been quite a tale to tell. Wales has its own, very distinct language (the oldest in Britain). It has a hugely varied and contrasting geography – with flat coastal plains and valleys in the south of the country and ranges of hills and mountains in Mid and North Wales. It has three national parks and five areas of outstanding natural beauty with the largest mountains in the north. And there are over 1300 kilometres of coastline ranging from long flat sandy beaches to towering cliffs. Of course the industrial landscape has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. At the turn of the 20th century, the emphasis (unlike today) was on coal and slate mining alongside steel production, which in turn supported a strong maritime industry.
Giulia Patricolo - Castell De Flores (2016
As the work started to filter in, the mosaic began to emerge. Opening each parcel was like discovering a precious jewel and it was a process I cherished. I was in awe at the breadth of skill, but increasingly I realised that the actual size of the work became immaterial. As I looked into each one, the boundaries of the canvas fell away as I was transported into a seascape, down a country lane, into an industrial landscape. I began to imagine the confines of a miner at work, marvelled at the colours and textures, the light on water, the agony, the passion and the complexity. The artistry, depth and intricacy.
Kate Murray - Stubborn (2016)
Yvette Brown - Hidden Coastline (2016)
But I was also immersed in the stories contained in these miniature pieces of work. Each individual canvas telling its own tale, but together, as a Collection, conveying a much bigger story.
And the threads that weave it all together are its people, represented here by just 140 very talented artists and artisans, and the combined strength of the passion and pride that they share.
Jan Gardner - Untitled (2016)
Alison Moger - Wash Day In Wales (2015)
And so the story is theirs and I hope they (and the people of Wales) feel that they have been well represented. I have had the infinite pleasure of meeting some amazingly talented people, of having a special insight into their work, and ultimately of seeing a body of work emerge that could not have been designed or predetermined. A small, but important part of the extraordinary Imago Mundi. Something of which I am immensely proud.
Stephanie Szakalo Curator
David Randal Davies - Three Workers – A Memory of Wales (2015)
Art Direction, Photography and Production
Giorgia De Luca
Editing and Translation
Carlo Antonio Biscotto
Gilly Thomas - I Don’t Like Landscapes