Terrestrial Locomotion

Pete Williams at Oriel Mwldan

Terrestrial Locomotion (of land and self-propulsion)

Pete Williams is a print-maker, with a long-standing reputation for detailed artistic work and his current exhibition at Theatr Mwldan, has the potential to appeal to a keen audience of those who love  both the work of a craftsman and that of a fine artist, as this unique work is an exemplary demonstration of a combination of both practices and takes them to a new level.

The work currently on show at Mwldan relates not only to Williams’s printmaking, but also, perhaps surprisingly,  to his love of running, and it is this which is recorded and translated into tangible and beautiful pieces of work.

‘When I run,’ he says. ‘My mind begins to empty of all the stresses and strains of daily life. After I have got over the first couple of muscle aching, shin battering miles, my body and mind tend to level out and a serene calm begins to settle.’

Out of this serenity and after the running, comes the creating of the objects which will capture the essence of the runs themselves.  These are huge pieces of work in wood. Circular and powerful they are named for the runs; Llwyernog Silver Mine, Elan Valley Reservoir; and they are worked with chisels and a craftsman’s tools. Designs and patterns put into the wood, bring texture and shape, then inks are added and worked into the designs, creating  the blocks from which the prints can be taken. The fact that these giant circular designs, can then be reproduced again and again, is of course the magical part of the print-making process, and a most appealing process it is. But then the truth is that these blocks are in themselves complete and beautiful works of art.

Williams is the co-founder and director of the Print Market Project in Cardiff, now  a studio with facilities for stone and plate lithography, silkscreen, relief and etching, coupled with opportunities for forward thinking and combining practices. Williams calls it ‘A most Important Space’ the name of the film about the Project, showing alongside the work in the Mwldan gallery. The soundtrack and the images within the film, generate a feeling of uplift and a suggestion that making art can be a joyful, life-enhancing pursuit. By watching the smiles of those viewing, it would seem that idea can be infectious.

Williams is also associate lecturer at Cardiff and Swansea Metropolitan University and Carmarthen School of Art on the BA/MA Fine Art Printmaking and his show is in Oriel Mwldan until 24th August.

Such Stories

Towyn Chapel Vestry in New Quay was the scene of an unusual entertainment recently when Peter Stevenson, author and storyteller, joined forces with Corelw musicians; Ceri Wyn Owen on harp and Elsa Davies on fiddle and voice. Between them they brought to life some of the legends, myths and magical tales connected with Ceredigion. Many of the stories, as is the way with all local tales, spring from and relate back to the universal tales of magic, of the ‘fairy folk’, or ‘tylwyth teg’ or ‘the little people’ depending on the tradition that relates to the area. These stories can be, and often are recounted over and over again, but the fact that they are recognisable does not diminish the enjoyment of hearing them. Plus there is almost always some detail that makes them different, one from another, depending on the location.
Peter Stevenson, worked the stories as though he was taking his audience through a maze in a surreal and colourful landscape; beginning with a simple tale of a woman who lived in Panteg Farm. The reality of the location, lulls the audience into easy belief, and when the appearance of the elderly fairy who wants the woman’s baby, is introduced, the audience are already in the land of ‘the willing suspension of disbelief’ and though the stories get stranger, the people and the places remain local, keeping everything on a credible level, and the audience continues to follow the story with interest. The audience in the Towyn vestry, were , in fact happily involved, and following the storyteller’s every word. The mix of fairy tale with genuinely eccentric historical local figures, and the stories which have attached to them throughout the years, created a magical feel.
For instance, the tales of old Siani who lived on the beach at Cei Bach, beneath the sea and the land, where she was able to live out her days without paying any rates to the council, and not a penny in rent because it was already an empty wreck when she moved in, is a story well-known to those who live in the area. Siani was a fortune-teller and a storyteller, and the life she had lived, as she told it to others, was a story so complex and full of exaggeration and illusion that it has become the stuff of legend and she has almost become a magic wisewoman in her own fairy tale. There was also material drawn from the archives ; words and music written in a school exercise book by Mair Evans, who lived near New Quay in the early part of the twentieth century, which gave material not only to the storyteller, but to Corelw, the musicians who took some of the songs, and adapted them for the occasion. Both harpist and fiddler showed considerable skill and sensitivity playing throughout the ninety minute performance. Giving backing to Peter’s voice as the storyteller, their accompaniment offered a gentle continuity, and periodically their voices came forward to sing one of the old songs in a delicate, melodic harmony. The music contributed considerably to the magical quality of an evening which had little in the way of advertising, yet attracted a surprisingly sizeable audience.

An Action Mystery

The feedback on Literary Festivals this year in the press suggests that it is time perhaps that they offered something more active than sitting listening to people talking about their books. Funny how things can get a bit samey over the years. It isn’t that long ago that people would have been thrilled to hang on every word spoken by John Mortimer or PD James, in the flesh as it were. But that has grown a little familiar, so something new is required. I have come up with my own something new for the Penfro Book Festival this year, and seeing as the most popular form of novel is a mystery (even romance is usually a mystery of some kind) I’ve built a mystery game.  It’s an idea which might go really well or fail miserably. I’m hoping that families who come to the festival will enjoy it. It begins with me telling the brief story – how an item came to be stolen and the thief attempted to escape, and how, after running across the fields he ends up in the middle of a book festival where he hides his precious stuff somewhere not so far away! The audience are then drafted in as deputies and given clues to finding both thief and the stolen item. There is a prize of a token to spend at the festival, but the real fun, it is hoped will be in taking part in the game itself which of course all takes place in the beautiful gardens of Rhos y Gilwen Mansion which is where the Penfro Book Festival happens over the weekend of 13-16 September. It’s a vintage year this year with Carol Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Lucy Gannon, Jim Perrin and many others. So whether my little mystery game is going to be a success is not of major import in the scheme of things, but it is just so good to be doing something that can involve parents and kids together in something active and fun, and I for one, am really looking forward to it.