I first met Marc Rees in Cardiff to discuss working together on an aspect of Welsh tourist history in north Wales for the Llandudno-based arts festival, LLAWN02. The underlying theme of LLAWN02 was the Presence of Absence which doesn’t only relate to buildings and tales but also to people. J Walter Richards is a forgotten artist who worked as a solicitor in Colwyn Bay before retiring to Anglesey. I had recently rediscovered and obtained a rare collection of Richards’ drawings that have never been seen by the public. Therefore, with Marc Rees, we felt it was time to reveal them in a somewhat unusual fashion. The illustrations featuring wonderful, colourful characters, captured in watercolour, were displayed in groups via vinyl, covering whole windows of prominent empty shops throughout the town. A number of key figures were replaced by vibrant pink silhouettes (connecting directly with the LLAWN brand). These missing notables were repositioned as life size cut-outs within the shelters along the Prom, thus creating a wonderful juxtaposition of seaside excursionists, then and now; a snap shot of collapsed time. One day, I would love to turn this wonderful collection of original artworks into a book. J Walter Richards deserved better recognition.
I first met Manuel Vason during a film shoot at Plas Teg for Jean Genet’s The Balcony, directed by Lauren Jane Williams. I admired Maneul’s vision for the scenes and thought that his creative direction would work well with the story of Margaret Sandbach, John Gibson and her memorial of Hafodunos. Truth Department, a Welsh production company and I, developed several scenes from Margaret’s life and death, which would be shot on location in north Wales. These were funded by an Arts Council Wales grant and were featured in the book, Margaret Sandbach: A Tragedy in Marble and Ink, co-written with Dewi Gregory, of Truth Department.
Manuel Vason was born in Padua, Italy in 1974. In 1998 he moved to London and whilst assisting some of the most highly regarded photographers in the fashion industry he started the live performance art project ”Exposure”.
His work has been published on L’Uomo Vogue, ID, Dazed and Confused, Tate Magazine etc. and exhibited at Tate Liverpool, ICA London, Whitechapel Gallery London, VB Museum (Finland), Museo delle Papesse (Italy).
Truth Department commissioned Vason to create a series of nine photographic tableaux inspired by the life and work of Margaret Sandbach. The images were first exhibited as part of Fotofringe in Cardiff, in June 2014 and are published in the volume Margaret Sandbach: A Tragedy in Marble and Ink.
Involving a cast and crew of twenty, each tableau features an inner image shot in studio, which was then reproduced and photographed for the tableau on location; at Bodnant Garden, at a private Welsh house and at Hafodunos itself. The images feature performance artist Michelle Outram, Colwyn Bay schoolboy, Oshi Adey-Davies (9), Stephen Peckham as Margaret’s husband, Henry Sandbach, and Llandudno sculptor Nick Elphick as his Victorian counterpart, John Gibson RA.
Manuel said, ‘Everything started from the story of Margaret’s life. Once we had all these ingredients we had to find a very good way of representing these stories, and we only had 9 images to do it in, so everything is very detailed.’
Without Antonia’s help and support, many of my latest projects would not have happened. The beauty of her work, the eye of an artist, have been captured on camera. Antonia Dewhurst is a multimedia fine artist living and working in North Wales and was introduced to me by Ceri Leeder. Antonia gained a BA Fine Art from Coleg Menai, Bangor, in 2011 and is a member of casc (Contemporary Art Studios Cymru). Antonia’s work has been included in several exhibitions including ‘gimme shelter’ at the Oriel Davies gallery and ‘Preswylio/Dwell’ at The Last Gallery.
Antonia visited both Brynkir and Hafodunos on several occasions and through photography she has beautifully captured the vulnerable state in which both sites now finds themselves. Antonia additionally travelled down to the Cardiff National Museum to photograph examples of the sculptural work of John Gibson, which are also displayed on this website.
Ceri Leeder, a north Wales-based artist, was originally my art teacher from school. I approached her in 2006 with regard to creating a reconstruction of Llwynywormwood, Carmarthenshire, for presentation to HRH The Prince of Wales by the Georgian Group. The final image was used with permission on the front cover of Llwynywormwood: A Royal Home in Wales. Ceri then collaborated with me again on the Margaret Sandbach of Hafodunos and Brynkir, Dolbenmaen projects.