Day 5 Penrhyn Residency- wallpaper, looking away, volunteers

Day 5 was not a full day, I managed to get to the castle late afternoon, with the sun out.

Things change mentally when you are on a project. The previous few days were speculative, experimental, open – which is a good thing but inevitably it changes.Today I entered the castle looking for particular things with a certain kind of visual desire.

I was looking for  rooms with certain things. The volunteers here are really great.I have time to have a couple of long conversations with two of them about the house.They are all enthusiastic with detailed knowledge.They want to know about me and my work, where am I working in the castle, will I show them things.Well yes but at the moment I want to make a few things here; its a credibility issue.You cannot stand in an empty studio and say to people hey look at me I am the artist in residence but there is no art. So yes all will be revealed but as Eric von Stronheim said about cinema ( I think) its all timing and lighting.

The volunteers have a briefing meeting every morning at 11.40 am. I like the fact that 11.40 am is not standard meeting time, nevertheless it is 11.40 am every day. I believe the time at Plas Newydd is different but I have not got that knowledgeable yet, it is only day five for me, I am doing my best and its a steep learning curve, the National Trust is not a three people and a small office.  So far I have attended two meetings, you have to come in every day of the week to see them all. I was really impressed by these meetings, they are serious about “the information” ( from what I remember from the Martin Amies novel that’s what taxi drivers learn when they learn to negotiate the roads of London).Here its not roads but its serious stuff which includes new plans being found or selling off a Dutch painting.The meetings reminded me of the scenes in a crime series where the detective briefs the cops before the days work and I am not being facetious the volunteers are both interested and speak their minds.It is really refreshing in this age of corporate compliance. I think that if anybody tries to sell too much early Dutch panel painting somebody might get punched. So I salute you  volunteers and National Trust and so far I have only managed to get to the Thursday and Friday team meetings, so a good few days to go !

I am sure I will get back to the volunteers but lets stick with the art for a bit. It is clear that the Alice/ wallpaper thing is becoming a bit of an obsession and opening out from the Hollywood style castle narrative about the gardener, scratching on the glass story to deeper themes about repression, desire, masculine and feminine, the castle as a restrictive symbol stifling imagination. I was not aware of this until I made the following drawing, late afternoon in the tower. Sounds very Gormenghast!

Look away Alice, touching silk damask

Look away Alice, touching silk damask

Here it is Alice( in the photograph I mentioned previously) looking away from the camera, whilst everyone else does the opposite, looking at the spectator.Touching Silk Damask is another of the samples in one of the rooms.It seemed to me to symbolise an absolute sensuality; the plot thickens…

Originally in this mixed media drawing there were more characters from the photograph with fancy hats and crinolines but as the work developed, it must be said at certain speed like on a wave that it was pointless to try and stop, the other characters in the photograph were pushed back into the black ground to focus on the head in its blackness balanced against the decorative elements of wallpaper, flower arabesques and the opposition of black emptiness to the orange/ pink glow and the prominence of touching, silk and damask.


About emrysw

Emrys Williams is a visual artist based in Wales.
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