Merched Chwarel is a collaboration of four artists - Marged Pendrell, Julie Williams, Lisa Hudson and Lindsey Colbourne - whose work is connected to the quarries of North Wales where we each live and work. Following the positive response to our Arts Council Wales funded Research & Development collaboration in 2017, we have teamed up with curator Jill Pearcy, and are now working towards five curated, site-specific exhibitions of new works in 2019. We are delighted to have received a major project grant from Arts Council Wales, plus cash and in-kind support from a range of organisations for this next phase. Exhibitions will be held in Storiel, Bangor (including satellite cabinet ‘taster’ displays in their outreach locations), Amgueddfa Llechi Llanberis, Castell Penrhyn and Llyfrgedd Blaenau Ffestiniog, Llechwedd Slate Caverns.
The exhibitions, and the individual and collaborative artistic development process from the end of March 2018, will comprise new art works in response to the question: ‘Who are we, the Merched Chwarel [the Quarry Women] of the past, present and future? How are our aesthetics, identity and connection to place, culture and language mediated by the quarries?’.
Our vision is of the quality of the Merched Chwarel exhibitions, and the process of developing them, offering a unique engagement with our industrial landscape, heritage and culture with a sensibility around the Welsh language and the 'deep now' (the present in a constellation of past and future). This will be realised in a layered, contextualised enquiry that uses our multiple connections to build on the sediment of past work (eg Slate Sea, Penrhyn residencies) and contemporary developments locally (Llwybr Llechi, World Heritage Site Bid, Welsh Slate, Llechwedd Slate Caverns), and further afield.
Our inspiration started out from our own individual working practices with quarries and developed through our walks together during our R&D. We have forged a shared reflective practice that is underpinned by a connection to place, walking and mapping as an art form; to working with the ordinary, enabling the every-day to expose the extraordinary; to Iwan Bala’s conception of custodial aesthetics; psychogeography; and to an interest in exploring materiality and object-hood and their relation to belonging and identity.
I recently wrote about the walking element of this project in a blog, Walking Women
We have a website for the project see here
Here are some of the things I was exploring as part of the R&D in 2017:
Some pages from my project journal...
Mixing SATOR square inspired word squares (7 x7) with Rorschach Blot tests made from words written in mud from Porth Penrhyn.
Merched Chwarel at the Open Day, Amgueddfa Llechi Llanberis Slate Museum... people chose a postcard and wrote one word describing how they feel about the quarries on the back
Some experiments with sound
We held our 'sharing' of the results of the R&D programme at Amgueddfa Llechi Llanberis Slate Museum on 1st March. Lots of positive feedback, interest, insight and some great challenging questions and suggestions for us to think about as we consider what next.