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Statement and introduction

Farmers' Daughters Exhibition 2000 - by Jill Piercy

The painter and performer Catrin Williams draws her inspiration and a rich range of subjects from her upbringing in a close rural Welsh-speaking community with a strong sense of its own identity expressed through music and performance. Acutely aware that many of the practices from her childhood are disappearing fast, she celebrates undervalued cultural activities, such as taking tea and the Sunday school trip. She strives to create through her work a vocabulary of images, signs and symbols of her own experience to embody a collective cultural memory. To this end, she frequently channels her creative energies into collaborations with other artists, performers and musicians and indeed whole communities on events and installations, and she has worked with politically motivated artist collectives such as Beca.

She has worked with the identification markings of hill sheep to make a body of work ranging from the smallest of prints to huge shaped canvases reminiscent of shields or kites. When sheep roam in common on the mountainsides of North Wales for summer grazing, they can be identified with their owner and their farm of origin by a series of cuts in their ears. This code of minor mutilation is recorded in a printed book, with the configuration of nicks, splits and cuts, left and right ears, shown diagrammatically. Strays can therefore be identified and returned to their owners. That a creature can be changed in shape, however slightly, to signify its origin is fascinating in itself, and is reminiscent of the legend of Taliesin who could change form at will. That it happens in rural Wales resonates with other practices, such as identifying people with their homestead so strongly that its name becomes commonly allied to theirs. Issues of identity are paramount in a small country with a dominant neighbour.

Catrin's work marks the partial closure of the way of life for which these practices were evolved. Many of the markings she has used have very recently fallen into disuse, as the farms they identify have been sold, the families moved on and out of farming due to economic pressure. Catrin's own homestead at Cefnddwysarn near Bala has been sold and the longstanding family connections have been dissolved. These works commemorate, in the words of her 1997 Eisteddfod installation, Pethau Brau - Fragile Things.

Copyright © Catrin Williams
Design - Almon