GS Artists: Demian Johnston

Installation detail photograph by Jeremy Gluck

Demian Johnston’s practice builds on a growing body of work with energy concentrated by its confinement – “thinking inside the box”. These ideas value spontaneity, the positioning of objects and making of marks based on inner instinct and expression.

Perverse in its initial conception the practice shows dimensions of unpredictability, naturalness, glimpses into the unconscious, dark and monotonous, allowing the viewer to become a participant in creating discourse, helping the artist try to understand his own internal dialogue and find some sense in this illogical world.

Says Johnston, “It’s time for everybody to stop and look at the world with a view to seeing who is watching us and why. It is increasingly important that people step back, look at themselves, they’re surroundings and the world.”

Installation, Volcano Theatre, 2019 Photograph by Mitja Zupanc

GS Artists: Tess Wood

Jumping Mawr, 1/04/2020. Morfa Bychan, Wales

Tess Wood’s practice aims to express and further deepen her own understanding of human interaction and social control, presenting performances to her audience in an attempt to offer them an opportunity, to experience and contemplate feelings towards topics such as gender, sexuality, power and the moments of fear, love, passion and frustration that reside within these in the contemporary day.

Jumping Mawr Resonator

Currently focusing on the underpinning of a collective frustration with social control, power structures and theories regarding the relationship of body to architectural public space. Within the last month her work has taken a more reflective sentiment relating the current lock down situation that we are experiencing to her time spent in Japan in 2017.

Make noises when you can’t comprehend it at all…

The images shared here are stills from three separate performances in which the artist uses her body to express personal emotional and physical frustration with the world. Using these landscapes and architectural spaces she utilises public and private spaces as a place where one can easily express themselves immediately. This series of performative actions is an ongoing project spanning the last five years.

Delapidated Dance, 04/03/2020 – Swansea High Street, Wales

It is a mechanism that drives me to create work. If I am told something is to be a certain way, that I must abide by a certain set of rules, I am wired, I am totally wired to understand why.

GS Artists: Abigail Fraser

Abigail Fraser

My work is an ongoing investigation into the loving vulnerability connected to the memory of a space and a place. Through using materials such as LED Lights, old television monitors and oil paint, I explore themes of domesticity such as universally recognised objects and symbols of familiarity. For example, recreating the familiar patterns of windows or carpets spanning from universally significant architectural designs such as the Vatican to a Swansea student household. For me, my work is an investigation into the potential of using perception as a material, through manipulating light as a method of triggering memory. Challenging “How close memory feels to trespass” – Edward DeWall.

This collection of ink drawings was done in response to the current Covid-19 crisis as a documentation of personal and shared experiences in this challenging time. 

GS Artists: Jeremy Gluck

I’M FREE ALREADY, 2020, Text-based art

I conceal what I reveal

I reveal what I conceal

MY GENIUS HAS NO SOUL, 2020

Brave No World, 2020
Manifesto of Nonceptual Art, 2017

Jeremy Gluck mainly works with contemporary strategies. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, Gluck creates work in which a fascination with the clarity of content and an uncompromising attitude towards conceptual and minimal art often collides with ambiguity and concealment. The work is aloof and systematic and a cool and neutral imagery is used, obscuring a subtext speaking to process as practice.

Jeremy Gluck Axisweb

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Arddangosfa o waith Jamie Reid gan Tomos Sparnon

O 24 Ionawr i 1 Mawrth 2020, cynhaliwyd arddangosfa o waith yr artist adnabyddus Jamie Reid yn GS Artists, Abertawe.  

Mae GS Artists (Galerie Simpson gynt) yn gyfarwydd ag arddangos gwaith artistiaid llwyddiannus ac adnabyddus, er enghraifft Sir Peter Blake, Gavin Turk, Cecile Johnson Soliz a Tim Davies i enwi rhai, ond roedd rhywbeth gwahanol ynglŷn ag arddangos gwaith Jamie Reid gan ei fod nid yn unig yn artist ond yn enwog am ei gysylltiad â’r byd cerddorol a pholiticaidd ac fel ymgyrchydd. Yn wir, dywedodd artist o Abertawe wrthyf fod Reid yn arwr iddi, yn enwedig yn y 1970au. 

Pan soniodd Jane Simpson (artist a sefydlydd GS Artists/Galerie Simpson) y llynedd am y posibilrwydd o gynnal arddangosfa o waith Jamie Reid, rhaid i fi gyfaddef nad oeddwn yn gyfarwydd â’r enw. Ond pan welais ddelwau o’i waith, cofiais fy mod wedi eu gweld o’r blaen mewn llyfrau ac ar-lein a chofiais hefyd ifi gael fy nharo ganddynt. Yn y misoedd yn dilyn hyn, edrychais ymlaen at weld y gwaith yn y cnawd gan ddychmygu’r gwahanol bosibiliadau o arddangos y gwaith. 

Roedd y broses o helpu gosod yr arddangosfa, yn yr oriel a thu allan, gyda chyfarwyddwyr eraill a gwirfoddolwyr GS Artists yn un arbennig, fel arfer, ac yn enwedig o dan arweiniad y galerïwr John Marchant. Ar ôl gosod gwaith Reid yn ei le, cefais fy nhywys o amgylch yr arddangosfa gan Marchant. Roedd gwrando arno’n disgrifio gwaith Reid – ei fywyd a’r dylanwad y mae ei waith wedi ei gael ar gelf, cerddoriaeth a chymdeithas, yn arbennig, ac yn hynod ddiddorol.  

Cefais fy nharo gan sawl peth yn yr arddangosfa. Y peth cyntaf oedd darn, sy’n rhan o driptych, sy’n cynnwys delwedd o Orsedd y Beirdd Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru. Cafodd Reid ei fagu o dan ddylanwad Derwyddiaeth ac mae’r dylanwad hwnnw’n amlwg yn hwn. Mae rhywbeth dirgel am y darn ac awyrgylch tywyll sy’n fy niddori. Mae’n apelio ataf hefyd oherwydd fy nghysylltiad i â’r Eisteddfod – sefydliad sy’n agos at fy nghalon. Mae’r darn yn Gymreig a hanesyddol ond mae rhywbeth annaearol amdano hefyd.  

Roedd yr arddangosfa’n cynnwys gwaith Reid o’r 1970au hyd heddiw. Roedd rhywbeth hyfryd am hyn gan ei fod yn ein galluogi i weld y datblygiad yn ei waith a gweld sut mae pethau wedi newid a heb newid yn y byd dros y blynyddoedd. Roedd hefyd yn fodd inni weld sut mae Reid wedi arbrofi gyda gwahanol dechnegau, deunyddiau a chyfryngau (fel argraffu â sgrin, inc, collage, gwaith digidol a phosteri) yn ystod ei yrfa er mwyn dod o hyd i’r ffordd orau o gyfleu gwahanol negeseuon. Fel artist, roeddwn wrth fy modd â hyn.

Rhywbeth arall y cefais fy nghyffroi ganddo oedd y cabinet gwydr a oedd yn llawn delweddau, gan gynnwys ‘cut-outs’ gwreiddiol Reid. Roedd edrych yn y cabinet hwn fel edrych i mewn i feddwl Reid. Teitl traethawd hir fy ngradd yn y brifysgol ddwy flynedd yn ôl oedd ‘Archwiliad o stiwdio’r artist fel gofod archifol gweithredol’ ac roedd y cabinet hwn fel archif, yn enwedig o’r 1970au. Wrth edrych ar y cabinet hwn hefyd, gallwn ddychmygu’r math o stiwdio a fyddai gan Reid ac roedd hyn yn gwneud ifi feddwl am stiwdios artistiaid eraill fel Francis Bacon a Sir Peter Blake. 

Efallai mai’r prif beth y cefais fy niddori ganddo oedd y delweddau o waith Reid a osodwyd yn y strydoedd, y tu fa’s i’r oriel. I fi, roedd yna agwedd o brotestio ac ymgyrchu wrth osod y delweddau ar adeiladau, ac yn fy marn i, roedd hyn yn cyd-fynd â’r neges y tu ôl i’r gwaith. Roedd hefyd, wrth gwrs, yn ffordd effeithiol o ddenu pobl i’r arddangosfa na fyddai, o bosib, wedi dod heblaw am hynny. Erbyn hyn, mae’r rhan fwyaf o’r delweddau wedi diflannu o ganlyniad i’r gwynt a’r glaw ond mae hyn yn fy niddori hefyd gan ei fod yn awgrymu byrhoedledd a’r ffaith mai dros dro yw llawer o bethau’r ddaear hon.   

Yr hyn a ddysgais yn fwy na dim o’r arddangosfa hon yw nad ‘Mr Punk’ yn unig yw Jamie Reid – mae wir yn hidio am y bregus. 

An English translation of this post follows below the gallery.

An exhibition of the work of Jamie Reid by Tomos Sparnon

From 24 January to 1 March 2020, an exhibition of the work of the renowned artist Jamie Reid was held at GS Artists, Swansea.

GS Artists (formerly Galerie Simpson) is used to showcasing the work of successful and well-known artists, for example Sir Peter Blake, Gavin Turk, Cecile Johnson Soliz and Tim Davies to name a few, but there was something different about exhibiting Jamie Reid’s work as he is not only an artist but renowned for his connection with the musical and political world and also as a campaigner. Indeed, a Swansea-based artist told me Reid was her hero, especially in the 1970s.

When Jane Simpson (artist and founder of GS Artists/Galerie Simpson) mentioned the possibility of holding an exhibition of Jamie Reid’s work, I must admit that I was not familiar with the name. But when I saw images of his work, I remembered that I had seen them previously in books and online and also remembered being struck by them. In the months that followed, I looked forward to seeing the work in the flesh and imagined the different possibilities of exhibiting the work.

Helping to set up the exhibition, both in the gallery and outside, with other directors and volunteers of GS Artists was a great experience, as usual – especially under the guidance of the gallerist John Marchant. After hanging Reid’s work, I was shown around the exhibition by Marchant. Listening to him describing Reid’s work – his life and the influence Reid’s work has had on art, music and society, was fascinating.

I was struck by several things in the exhibition. The first piece, which is part of a triptych, contains an image of the Gorsedd of the Bards at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. Reid was brought up under the influence of Druidism and that influence is evident in this piece. There is something mysterious about it and a dark atmosphere that fascinates me. It also appeals to me because of my connection with the Eisteddfod – an organisation that is close to my heart. The piece is Welsh and historical but there is something eerie about it too.

The exhibition featured Reid’s work from the 1970s up until today. There was something special about this as it allowed us to see the development in his work and to see how things have changed/haven’t changed in the world over the years. It also enabled us to see how Reid has experimented with different techniques, materials and media (such as screen printing, ink, collage, digital work and posters) during his career to find the best way to convey different messages. As an artist, I loved this.

Something else that excited me was the glass cabinet full of images, including Reid’s original cut-outs. Looking in this cabinet was like looking into Reid’s mind. The title of my dissertation at university two years ago was ‘An exploration of the artist’s studio as an active archival space’ and this cabinet was like an archive, especially from the 1970s. Through looking at this cabinet, I could also imagine the kind of studio Reid would have, and this made me think of other studios, like those of Francis Bacon and Sir Peter Blake.

What interested me more than anything possibly were the images of Reid’s work that were placed in the streets, outside the gallery. To me, placing these images on buildings implied an element of protesting and campaigning, and in my opinion it was in keeping with the message behind the work. It was also, of course, an effective way of attracting people to the exhibition who might not otherwise have come. Most of the images have disappeared by now as a result of wind and rain but this also fascinates me, as it implies ephemerality and the fact that many things on this earth are transient.

What I learnt more than anything from the exhibition is that Jamie Reid is not just Mr Punk – he cares for the vulnerable.

Anja Stenina Knows What You Mean: An Interview

By Jeremy Gluck for GS Artists

You Know What I Mean Photograph by Hywel Edwards

Anja Stenina‘s show ‘You Know What I Mean‘, appealing to the intellect but also evading it, is apparently cerebral. Posing many questions beyond its name, the show embodies a fundamental challenge: You Know What You Are? The latest expression of a body of work that is as engaging as it is deceptively elusive, its theatrical and performance elements are grounded in an earthy and even sometimes matriarchal matrix, feeding back life, love and an arch wisdom and insight into the human condition.

Stenina’s work, by turns literate, literal and articulated in popular tropes, in this case is cast in a low, blue light to emphasise its marine themes, and employing the renowned sea shanty, What Do We Do With a Drunken Sailor, as a platform for undermining and investigating assumptive perspectives. You Know What I Mean is, literally and figuratively, a delightful, compassionate and enlightened collision of ideas, light and Jungian shadows.

Anja, interviewed here, supplies context to what is a growing body of work deserving reflection.

GS Artists: Question one: What is question zero?

Anja Stenina: ‘What should we do with a drunken sailor?’ questioning the influence of the authority of collective judgement. The fundamental conceptual question is: how in control are you? It is a progression of my work in a wider sense that explores our relationship with society. That traces back to my BA Degree exhibition in 2016 ‘Are you in control?’, where I explored how power structures manipulate us quite blatantly just below the superficial skin of our everyday lives. In the installation I would draw out the stage directions to life on the floor, but using invisible ink which could then be discovered, piece by piece, by the audience using black light torches. I also wanted to present the physical metaphor of the whole process – that the audience is surrendering themselves to my authority when they come in, yet they are still entirely in control of their lives – they always have a choice – they can turn the torch off at any point, or simply choose to stop following the instructions.

The revision within the Drunken Sailor song is an exploration between different standpoints. It specifically raises questions of judgement and morality, how opinions are arrived at and how often do people actually consider where their opinions are coming from. The idea connects to Barthes’ idea of the encratic language of authority and to what goes without saying.

I employ a dialectical approach to create a reflective environment for the observation of shifts of perspective. I’m not passing judgement; I am just creating a space for the unpacking of ideas, locating elements of control.

You Know What I MeanPhotograph by Tomos Sparnon

GS Artists: What are the chief elements of control?

Anja Stenina: Fashion and style. The style of social protocols and social rituals that are dictated by the dominant culture. With the metaphysical personifications of the Ages of Aquarius and Pisces, I am presenting two fashions, two standpoints. The viewer, therefore, is free to try on each of the ideological perspectives. My show is, basically, a changing room.

You Know What I Mean by Hywel Edwards

GS Artists: And in that room, what changes?

Anja Stenina: Who knows? It’s a private space.

I would only hope that the fitting helps one to engage critically with the dynamic between opposing standpoints and that the naturalness/comfiness of a certain garment aka certain established social construction is reflected back to the visitor and perhaps the dominance of one style is questioned by the alterations of the new style. Dominant trends/positions can be switched to more transgressive standpoints. I’ve presented opposing cultural constructions for the individual to try on and I hope that, as with the dressing room mirrors, the reflective experience of the self ‘wearing’ the different forms can influence one’s value judgments.

My work creates a potential space for change, it is the viewer’s reflections in the dressing room that complete it.

GS Artists: What is this “self”?

Anja Stenina: The knower; the chooser of the outfits; the one that catches the reflection.

GS Artists: In the simplest language, starved of any elaboration, what is your practice and what is your art? Is it necessary?

Anja Stenina: I am a poststructuralist and semiotician in my process and I am a conceptual mixed media installation artist. I work with elements of morality. Is morality necessary? Necessity is a question for the critics.

’You Know What I Mean’ by Anja Stenina

March 6th until March 28th, 2020

You Know What I Mean: A Show by Anja Stenina

Anja Stenina’s GS Artists solo show explores the break down of communication between ideological positions. “You know what I mean” exemplifies the way in which discourse is broken, limited without elaboration or resolution. She uses metaphysical personifications of the Ages of Aquarius and Pisces to symbolise antithetical ideological perspectives at a point of impasse and physically locates the viewer within the grey area between binary standpoints.

Anja Stenina

Anja is a conceptual mixed media artist from Latvia. She holds a first class honours degree from Swansea College of Art (University of Wales Trinity Saint David) – Anja will complete her Research Masters degree in Art & Design there last summer – and was a recipient of the Brian Ross Award from the Arts Council for Wales. In her work she explores themes of dignity and human agency, and the obstacles on the journey to a fulfilling life. The artist’s visual practice reflects upon the dominant culture from the perspective of marginalised members of society. She looks at choices people make, and the reasons behind them. The artist investigates the effects of the semiotic authority that underlies the symbols and stories of a dominant culture. In her visual practice, Stenina echoes the more commonplace manifestations of semiotic authority such as mundane behavioral protocols, societal norms and stereotypes. In her work Stenina playfully portrays the effects of the everyday mythologised body of ‘reality’ that arguably manifests itself in situations of symbolic abuse. Stenina’s artworks provide an environment for reflection upon the mundane ritualised objectification found within stereotypical acts.