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A review by Steffan Jones-Hughes of the exhibition held at Royal Cambrian Academy, Conwy, in October/November 2008. Catrin Williams exhibited alongside the 3d papier maché figures of Luned Rhys Parri and the freestanding ceramic figures of Meri Wells. The review was written for the a-n (Artist's Newsletter) website.

 

Wales: People, Places and Legends

I have been aware of the work of Catrin Williams, Luned Rhys Parri and Meri Wells for some time now. This exhibition at the Royal Cambrian Academy shows a significant body of work from all three.

On entering the gallery you first get to see a series of dresses hung on a washing line. This piece by Catrin Williams draws on the tradition in Wales of Cerdd Dant, a part of most eisteddfodau, where the singer sings an improvisation over a counter melody, usually on the harp. Here imagery and text floats over the surface of plain white dresses. The sunday best. I first saw this work at Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno, where Catrin Williams had recently completed a residency. It was then shown again in Kansas in the exhibition Prints of Wales in 2006.

This first gallery space is very heavily hung with a wide range of mixed media work by Catrin Williams and Luned Rhys Parri. I feel as though Catrin has produced a body of work here that is mature and refined in its handling of collaged cloth, paint and stitch. I was particularly drawn to Rhiw, a small village on the Llyn Peninsula. My grandparent's family had been born and bred in this remote part of North West Wales. Catrin has acurately depicted the chapel and criss cross of wires overhead that exist in this place, a place where the holiday maker lives next door to the chapel goer. This is the land of music and farmers. Once the source of many of the Cunard Line's sailors and where the people were made of strong stuff, of quarrymen and a stronghold of the Welsh language. Catrin Williams' drawing style has captured all of this.

I also enjoyed the playfulness of Luned Rhys Parri's lifesized papier mache euphonium and a ring of little jack russells in this space. Both symbols of a Welsh upbringing, the wind band and the farmer's little dog. Any Welsh home is never far from a chapel, and everyone is regularly involved in the local eisteddfod

Upstairs in the main gallery space Meri Wells has produced a significant group of ceramic figures that occupy the central space. These large magical animorphic characters have a stance and poise. Their prescence is pensive and quiet. They are not attention seeking but we a drawn into their world. We wonder where have they come from, where are they going, what are they thinking about. They quietly dominate the space. These are the best pieces I have seen by Meri Wells.

Luned Rhys Parri's work in this room explores the characteristics of local people, chapel, school, quarry. I was particularly impressed with this new work; the making skills in these papier mache people is really beautiful. Each one, Mrs Jones, Miss Tomos, Mr Williams is wearing incredible clothes with the most intricate shoes. All, slightly disconcertingly, have real eyes.

This is a really good exhibition, the artists are all making the best work they have made to date and each complements the other. In my view the gallery has selected too many works for the space, though it was a real pleasure to see this body of work.

Copyright © Catrin Williams
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