Friday, July 25, 2014

'Fourteen', Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Cwmbran, 26th July - 20th September.

Tomorrow, a new exhibition opens at Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre in Cwmbran. Fourteen artists living in or from Wales were invited to exhibit a piece of artwork that reflects their thoughts on the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. Each artist has created work which makes us reflect on events that changed the world forever.

For this exhibition, I decided to celebrate my love of Welsh blankets to hand weave a blanket in memory of my great uncle William Roy Gifford who lost his life in the First World War, and also his younger sister, Ivy. Every death as result of war is tragic and heart breaking for loved ones and I have always been haunted by this element of my family history. Ivy was so profoundly traumatised by the loss of her brother in the war, that she was institutionalised in her teens and spent the rest of her life in a care home, dying aged 60. Their mother was advised by the family doctor that the best way to overcome her grief was to have another child, and thus my grandmother Nina was born. Although Nina grew up knowing of her siblings, they were rarely mentioned and she never met her sister.

The blanket is a handwoven double cloth an iconic method of creating traditional Welsh blankets famed the world over. The decision to make a blanket was deliberate due to its symbolism of being indicative of nurture, protection and the envelopment of loved ones. Its colour and pattern is muted but rhythmic and has been created as a meditation on loss, absence and not knowing.

Each block of colour represents the siblings and what age they lived until. The red block represents Roy, aged 19, and the brown block Ivy, who lived to age 60. These blocks are joined, as the siblings knew each other. The separate fawn block represents my grandmother, who lived to 88.

The blanket has been handwoven in vintage pure wool, gifted by Ann Sutton some years ago.  Ann produced iconic Welsh double cloth blankets in the late 70s and early 80s.  Knowing my affinity for the history of Welsh blankets, she gave me her remaining stock of yarn when she had a studio clear-out a little while ago.  It was wonderful to use some of it for this project.

The other artists in the exhibition are:

Becky Adams, Iwan Bala, Sarah Ball, Peter Bodenham, Anne Gibbs, David Greenslade,Ruth Harries, Rozanne Hawksley, Buddug Humphreys, Alice Kettle, John Selway, Peter Spriggs, and Stephen West.

You can see an online catalogue here, which you can also purchase a hard copy of.

With extra thanks to my cousin Amy Roach for her help with dates and genealogical information for this project.