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Flora at Oriel Myrddin

October 7, 2015

The first thing you see in Oriel Myrddin’s gallery at the moment is a strange drift of clay flowers, with little notes written on cards popping up at intervals between them. You can participate in this exhibit. What you have to do is write down your first memory of flowers and you’re given one of the little clay flowers (roses?) to take away with you. I recommend you do so firstly because the little flowers are exquisitely made little things and look great as table centrepieces, but also because this kind of piece really needs the audience to help it work, and if you do join in, the memory of the piece seems to linger, adding an extra nuance to the work. This is an unusual sculpture that exists in time as well as space.

I sometimes play a little game when I’m going around exhibitions called ‘what would I steal if I could get away with it?’. In this exhibition, the make-off-with-it piece, for my money, is Michael Boffey’s bronze Frozen Melody. The whole thing is a colour just warmer than gold would be.The void left by the flowers is somehow more eloquent than the actual remains of them would be- not that the other pieces aren’t arresting in a different way, but the act of removing any intelligble fragments makes for a different sort of statement- Not ghostly, exactly, but a tangible-seeming way of referring to an object without actually referring to it. I think of Rachel Whiteread’s similar method of using casts of the inside of things, but Boffey’s work isn’t as direct- it’s more poetic really, using the process of arranging objects to cast to carry the visual metaphor of the piece.

Ori Gersht’s film is well worth a look too (you can ask the gallery staff to switch it on). The central thing to understand is that the sound being heard is the machine that was used to make it. I won’t ruin it for you by describing it too much, but there’s an ethereal quality to the sound, note quite music, not quite speech, not quite white noise, in the hinterland between those three things. The stills, in a way, are stronger pieces- the selected pattern made by the objects in the still have a dreamy nature that belies the process by which they were made. Having said that, you wouldn’t want to see the stills on their own- having the film there completes the experience.

One can’t really miss Jacques Nimki’s big, patterned drawings. There’s a certain essence in them that reminds me of surrealist scribblings and automatism, but conceptually they belong to an entirely different category, and the kinking drainpipe and other representational elements of her compositions remind you of that. You can really lose yourself in these works, and there are all sorts of little details to discover around the edge of ‘the little florilegium’.

A lot of the pieces in this show depend on you knowing a little more about them than could be easily gained just by confronting them head on, and this is nowhere more true than in Yoshihiro Suda’s work. This is mainly because they’re so good though- ‘morning glory’ had me totally convinced as the real thing until I find out it was a magnolia wood carving. The mind boggles that the technical capabilities that artist must have.

Emma Bennett’s striking paintings are also pieces that depend on the artist’s personal resources, but these are probably the most intellectually accessable pieces in the whole show. Her flowers and fruit ane other props can be enjoyed just for the virtuosity involved, but her sheer black surfaces and other devices invite more nuanced interpretation.

Don’t miss Owen Griffith’s account of his experiments in green spaces and volunteer-fuelled transformation programs. He clearly has a flair for this kind of thing, and the images are charming, if a little cosy.

Flora is on show at Oriel Myrddin until the 31st of October.


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