In Our Own Image?
Images, when viewed through the prism of time, do not portray one moment; rather they establish the historical context of their making. In Our Own Image? offers over a century of painting, photography and sculpture made in and of south Wales, perceptively woven together and examined by art historian Ceri Thomas. His singular and rigorous commitment to the visual culture of south Wales is extended here to not only provide a renewed focus on specific works, but also map the dynamics of ambition, education and patronage within a society transformed by the rise and fall of its industrial prowess.
Of course, we shouldn’t abandon the past. Indeed, In Our Own Image? embraces and celebrates it. It also reminds us that there is no going back. Walter Benjamin pointed out that the first sight of something is irretrievable and that familiarity leads to that thing vanishing ‘like the façade of a house as we cross the threshold’. The works of those represented here provide us with the opportunity to reimagine what they imagined, and to consider how the world around them shaped what they made.
It has been a pleasure to assist Ceri Thomas in bringing together bodies of work that form the newly transfigured art collection of the University of South Wales from which many of these works are taken. His illuminating text starts with reference to the doomed steamship Titanic. The rusting hulk provides us with one way of conceiving the significant and richly textured past of south Wales. It can never be fully visible yet through the darkness it is possible to glimpse details that suggest a bigger structure. The works offered here provide a glimpse of the components that helped shape a society that we can now only imagine.
The view framed by my window has changed little in the last century whilst much beyond it has. Robert Ballard’s book The Discovery of The Titanic contains the first flash-lit colour photographs of the fragmentary remnants of the Titanic looming out of the darkness. The book sits on the shelf just beyond Zobole’s Framed Painting About A Landscape No.6.
© Paul Cabuts 2014