Sunday, 9 May 2010


Pontardawe Arts Centre, Herbert Street, Pontardawe.
Until 21 May 2010 (Open 12pm – 7pm, Monday – Friday)
Alison Jones ****
Debbie Evans Quek **
Jonathan Powell ****
Sharon Crew ***
Four emerging Welsh artists based in North and South Wales come together for this show of sculpture, film, found materials, painting and drawing. Like Group 56, they have joined creative forces in order to harness an opportunity to exhibit contemporary art in Wales. At first glance the work of all four artists is disparate, and yet on further inspection themes of identity and fragility emerge. Skin falling away from faces  in the charcoal and paint ‘Heads’ by Jonathan Powell or sprouting growths like the barnacles of mermaids (Entwined) in the impressive sculptures of Alison Jones. Working with polyurethane foam, plastic, spray paint, lacquer, resin and plaster, Alison creates unsettling emotive pieces that merge the figurative with the biomorphic. While, equally impressive, her ink Study of Picture This reveals further technical skill.
Swansea-based ‘drawer, painter and candlestick maker’ Jonathan Powell has scaled down his work from the huge claustrophobic crowd scenes of his award-winning degree era. Currently his focus centres in on human heads, revealed in his well-realised paint and charcoal drawings here, a narrowing in on the crowds of obese pedestrians on the streets of Swansea, they pick out the face noticing you taking a photograph, the person who watches you back. In this series of heads the varying expressions nod to the screaming heads of Bacon (‘Head I’ to ‘Head VI’, 1948) and Grünewald. In some the skin appears to be hanging off the bones, or as Powell describes it:  ‘wind blasted skin stained with false tans smothered in layers of make-up, perfumes and deodorants;’  the charcoal  skeletons trying to escape their hideous and malnourished outer shells. Both Jones and Powell assert themselves as emerging artists to watch.
Sharon Crew’s Mort Wall Dancing is a quirkily dark work featuring a dancing shadowy figure tap dancing in an alley.  Elsewhere the charming miniature models, ‘Plans for Photographs’ encase small objects under glass, trapped like souls by cameras, or creatures in bell jars. Despite some decent work, the show is unfortunately cluttered by too many pieces on display from one artist, taking over the floor and wall space and thus encroaching on the enjoyment of the other three artist’s works. This suggests a lesson in less is more may benefit future curatorial efforts by Evans Quek.  Within such modest gallery spaces, the work of a group show needs more room to breathe. Certainly her input would have been far more dramatic in this group show if she had focused on one thing – her best creations, the insane and sinister yet vulnerable wall of futuristic insects created from found metal objects and wire revealing a promise yet to be fully realised.

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