Llantarnam Grange

Last Thursday we went on a college trip to Wales. Despite having lived 8 miles from the border for the last year, our trips to Wales have been very few and far between. Until about a month ago all of my spare time was taken up with college work or travelling to see BorderlineStraggler. Well it is time to change all that, and yesterday was my first cultural trip over the border.

There were two galleries on the itinerary: Craft in the Bay in Cardiff and Llantarnam Grange. I knew a bit about Craft in the Bay and I was looking forward to the Momentum show, which focused on the use of new technologies in craft. I am very passionate about the debates surrounding the use of technology in craft, and I was looking forward to discussing the ideas that the pieces would provoke. As we are doing a project on a National Trust property I had it in my mind that Llanatarnam would be another NT property that we would be visiting for supporting research.

How wrong I was. Llantarnam Grange is a regional hub for applied arts in Wales. It is in a converted 19th century Victorian manor house and the original features that have been retained in the space lend a lot of charm to the bright modern gallery spaces.
The current exhibition being shown is 'Portal 2011 - featuring the work of this years top UK graduates in the applied arts'. Several of the exhibitors are graduates from my course and it was inspiring to see work that I had seen created in the studios at college in a professional gallery.

The exhibition space is divided into two rooms each showing work in a range of materials. Some of the pieces were really pushing the boundaries of applied arts, while others were what could be considered more 'traditional'. Lynette Miller created an installation, showing her pieces, and a recreation of the space in which the work was created. She had a botanical focus and she had used the plants she was drawing to create the inks she drew them with. This integration of her subject matter into the drawings was thought provoking, and offered an interesting idea in terms of representing the process of making as being as key as the created object.  
Anna Watson made a series of simple, tiny houses in metal and wood. I was very taken with these little houses and the places they led my imagination. I particularly liked this piece which was displayed away from the rest, almost begging to be picked up and explored (don't worry - I didn't).

In the second room I was completely charmed by Elle Plummer's  presentation of her work. Now I am a sucker for file card drawers, wooden filling cabinets, plan chests as those who visit my house will attest so to see them used in the display of this literary themed jewellery was wonderful. Again this unusual presentation encouraged the viewer to peer in at the work and interact with it in a different way.

Not only was the work at Portal 2011 excellent, we were given a tour of the gallery by David, a member of the exhibition's team, who was able to offer all sorts of interesting and useful advice for working with galleries as artists. 

And finally the tea room deserves a special mention. Vintage china, gorgeous (reasonably priced!) cake, tea cosies. Perfect. 

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