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Two Art Weekends: Llandudno and Manchester

What’s better than a free contemporary art festival? One that is walking distance from home! I at times feel quite isolated art-wise in North Wales but this September certainly bucked the trend with the Helfa Gelf Open Studios and the inaugural Llawn01 (Llandudno Arts Weekend Number 01).

Every weekend in September over 300 artists in North Wales opens their studios to the public with Helfa Gelf, it is a really great way to meet other artists and check out their work. This year Helfa Gelf had a special exhibition space, Haus of Helfa, in Llandudno as part of the Llawn01 festival. Artists took over an empty Victorian building and filled it with wonderful installations. I wish that this building could be permanent home for artists, apparently it is going to be turned into offices in the near future. Hopefully this will start a trend though and more empty spaces in Llandudno will be made available to artists.

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Installation by Simon Proffitt

Llawn01 took place the 20th – 22nd of September and was described as “A Full-on Free festival to celebrate Llandudno’s past, present and future.” The festival was curated by artist Marc Rees and funded by MOSTYN, Arts Council Wales, Conwy County Borough Council and Mostyn Estates. The weather was amazing all weekend, which was a huge blessing, and I was able to take in most of the festival’s programme. The bathing huts occupied by artists were a major highlight; the camera obscura bathing hut, Vivascope, by Zoe Bouras and Antonia Dewhurst’s Mug Shots were my favourites. They both succeeded in being interesting artistically but also had the perfect light mood which captures a passive audience. The art shared during the festival all had a positive vibe; nothing too challenging and perfect for an inclusive event.

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Disco Victoria by Marc Rees

The following weekend I went to Manchester. The Manchester Contemporary was on and Liz and I spent an exhausting few hours trying to see each of the stands. It was really great seeing the artist-led spaces represented as well as commercial galleries. I really want to get out and see some of these spaces now such as Platform A (who Liz recently visited in Middlebrough and blogged about) and especially Aid & Abet in Cambridge.

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The main reason for my visit to Manchester was to see Liz’s solo show at Piccadilly Place, “On Brown & Violet Grounds.” The show looked amazing and I am really proud of Liz and her work the past year. Liz has really taken some big steps with her practice; with this show she stripped things back and made light and colour the main object.

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Image Credit: Stephen Iles

Liz also exhibited some drawings at Rogue Open Studios, where her own studio is based. Her studio space is amazing, and I loved getting to have a good root around and go through her cupboards and materials (not standard open studio practice – don’t worry, I only did this in Liz’s studio!).

The opening night there was absolutely packed. Three floors of artist studios was quite overwhelming but extremely exhilarating. I loved the work of Evangelia Spiliopoulou, her delicate pencil drawings reminded me of the painting of Agnes Martin, one of my favourite painters. I was also fascinated by the artwork of Anthony Hall, kinetic oil sculptures is the only way I can think to describe his work. Both are definitely worth a look if you ever get the chance.

Two weekends in a row packed with art and artist has really inspired me; I can’t wait to get into the studio tomorrow!

-Alana Tyson

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