Over the Easter break, I volunteered at the Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown in order to gain some work experience.
The Oriel Davies Gallery
Originally founded in 1982 as Oriel 31 in the nearby town of Welshpool, the gallery expanded three years later to the Davies Memorial Gallery in Newtown which had been built in 1967 specifically to be a gallery and community centre. This gallery was built with the legacy left behind by the well-known Davies sisters, Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. During the sisters’ lifetimes, they lived in Gregynog Hall (not far from Newtown) and collected works of art, including art by: Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Pissarro. The two sisters are now recognised as Wales’ most influential collectors of Impressionist and 20th Century art. On their passing, their collection was entrusted to the National Museum Wales, in Cardiff. Between 2002 and 2004, the gallery closed for refurbishment and upgrading, and then reopened with the new name, Oriel Davies Gallery in recognition of the Davies sisters.
The Oriel Davies Gallery now has three spaces in which it shows a range of works throughout the year, from: major exhibitions of national collections; newer work by established artists; to more experimental work by emerging artists. Aside from the gallery rooms, there is also a café and a shop, as well as there being workshops, courses, talks and other events held regularly.
During my time at the gallery, I did gallery guiding and worked on the front of house desk. Aside from meeting and greeting people and showing them around the exhibition, I also had to keep on top of other things such as: making sales from the shop; maintaining the cleanliness of the children’s resource area and the shop; handing out visitor questionnaires, etc.
The Exhibition: Vanishing Point
The exhibition that I was gallery guiding for was called, Vanishing Point, and was a display of new work by Cardiff-based artist, Kelly Best. The exhibition was created by Best specifically for the Oriel Davies Gallery space, meaning it was created to fit and suit its habitat exactly, and it offers a response to the architectural and physical space of the Oriel Davies’ galleries. Her works feature interconnections between sculpture, painting and drawing, which work together to consider the site, space and surface.
Personally I loved her steel sculptures the most, some of which towered over and above you, and some of which you could actually interact with such as stepping over and through. Best works in a range of media, including steel, watercolour and coloured pencil but tends to always manipulate the piece’s perspective, scale and light. I found with many of her pieces of show, particularly the steel sculptures, that depending on where you stood in the room and from what angle you looked at the piece from, the appearance changed. Although her work is rather minimal, which lead to some people being put off and unsure of what to think, the processes that she must have taken to reach the outcome of each piece is what I find particularly interesting when thinking about.
Although her pieces seemed almost too ‘basic’ at first, I really admired how simplistic and graphic they were. Her ‘zig-zagged wall’, as I called it, was a wonderful piece that looked amazing at both a distance and up-close. I loved how no two A4 pieces were the same – every single one was unique – and when looking more closely at the piece, you could see how the watercolours blended together, probably where Best had not washed her brush before changing colour. This process has meant that there are specks of blue left in the red and specks of red left in the blue, and where the brush has began to dry before being dipped back in water, the paper shows through creating a seemingly effortless aesthetic. You can see her experimenting with this drying out brush technique in some of her other pieces too. Really, I loved how something so simple could be so beautiful.
The pieces below really summed up the name of her exhibition, Vanishing Point, particularly the red one in which it feels you can look deeper and deeper into the painting to find the piece’s ‘vanishing point’ to they eye. Each of these nine pieces were individually quite psychedelic – getting as close as possible to a piece so that the painting filled my whole view, created a great intensity and perspective.
Overall, it was great to have the work experience there at the gallery, and was also fantastic to meet people involved in and interested in the creative industry. I feel that it was definitely a really worthwhile experience for me and I look forward to hopefully going back and working there again, perhaps over the Summer.