In August 1967 the acclaimed British author, Alan Garner OBE, published the classic children’s book The Owl Service. This supernatural thriller tells the story of Alison, Roger and Gwyn and their unwilling involvement in the recurring curse of Blodeuwedd, Lleu and Gronw.
It is a tale of love, supernatural possession, murder and eventual redemption, all played out in a remote valley in rural North Wales. The story revolves around the ancient tale of Blodeuwedd, from the Welsh chronicles of mythology The Mabinogion. In The Owl Service, this tragic story is replayed generation after generation, reliving the cursed love triangle that ensnared Blodeuwedd, Lleu and Gronw.
Photographer, David Heke, has been collaborating with Alan and Griselda Garner on a number of projects. Following a conversation around the kitchen table in their 15th-century farmhouse, about the forthcoming fiftieth anniversary of The Owl Service, the germ of the idea for this project was born.
Bringing together a multi-disciplinary group of artists from either side of the Welsh/English border, this collaboration explores and celebrates this ground-breaking story and it’s origins in Welsh myth.
The multimedia project includes photography, video, painting, sculpture, music/soundscape, poetry and a fine art upholstery installation. To complement the exhibition, there will be a collaboration with a choreographer to produce dance-based work for video and performance plus contributions from writers working in the fields of folklore and archaeology.
The participating artists are Liz Ellis (sculpture), Jenny Ryrie (painting), David Heke (photography and video), Chris Tally Evans (music/soundscape), Bettina Langlois (fine art upholstery), Anna Wigley (poetry and prose) and Jacqueline McCormick (dance).
All the artists have been selected due to their interest in the story of Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion and The Owl Service by Alan Garner.
Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School of Welsh at Cardiff University and writer of the most recent translation of The Mabinogion, has agreed to provide a series of readings from the medieval Welsh text ‘Math fab Mathonwy’ and talks on the Fourth Branch of The Mabinogion.
The exhibition will tour venues across the UK from April 2017 to September 2018 and be site-specific for each gallery location. Workshops by some of the contributing artists can be arranged on request to accompany the exhibition.
David Heke – photography and video
David is a Chester-based photographer, artist, printmaker and videographer. He has over twenty years experience of working in television and the performing arts, with disability and community groups, for advertising and marketing companies, for museum trusts, and local authority heritage and arts services.
David had a background in science before retraining in photography and darkroom techniques. He is interested in using art to interpret science in a creative way, making it more accessible to a wider audience. As an artist, he produces original limited-edition prints for sale and exhibition. He also creates videos for installations, exhibitions and commissions. Many of his images are derived from personal interests, such as archaeology, landscape, architecture, natural science, folklore and mythology. He uses traditional, digital and alternative photographic processes to achieve the final results.
David has worked with musicians, writers and choreographers, producing photography and video installations for use in performance. He has run, and participated in, a number of community-based arts programmes, including the Lache Arts Project, Cheshire Year of Gardens and Number 63, a pop-up gallery, studio and workshop, based in an empty retail space in Chester. He has worked on a range of site-specific projects, including photographer-in-residence for the Chester Amphitheatre Beacon Project.
David is a founder member of Cheshire Artists Network and arts collective CHART and has exhibited extensively, both nationally and internationally. In 2005 he was commissioned by the European funded Cultmark UK to produce an exhibition, book and workshop, profiling the historic canal system between Chester and Ellesmere Port. The resulting exhibition toured several venues in north-west England.
He recently contributed photographic artwork and a video collaboration (with musician i Luker Koenig) to the The Wing Assignment exhibition at Red Bull Studios, London and The Wing Asylum at Caroline Gardens Chapel, London.
Liz Ellis – sculpture
Born in Cheshire, Liz was educated in the arts and sciences and has practised professionally in both disciplines. She now works full time in her studio in Chester, working mainly on ceramic sculpture.
Finding connections in the external and internal geography of my own landscapes and drawing from the creative legacy of pre history, my work is sometimes figurative, sometimes abstract, but always being given up to the intense heat of the kiln for its final transformation.
Liz exhibits nationally and internationally in fine art galleries (including Medici, London and Roger Billcliffe, Glasgow) and public galleries (including The Brindley, Runcorn with ‘Slow Turning’). Her work is held in private collections in the UK, USA, Australia and Europe.
Liz is an experienced collaborator and workshop facilitator and has lectured to degree level (Oxford Brookes University). She has run clay life modelling workshops for West Cheshire College and has designed and run community workshops funded by the Arts Council.
Jenny Ryrie – painting
Jenny Ryrie R.B.S.A has specialised in watercolour and acrylics since graduating with an M.A. in Fine Art from Edinburgh in 1980. She uses expressionistic colour and a variety of techniques to push the boundaries of the watercolour medium, exploiting its fluidity and translucency.
After Edinburgh Jenny lived on the edge of the Brecon National Park which inspired her love of waterfalls, a recurring theme throughout her career. She had exhibitions in London and Edinburgh in the 1990’s and a two-person show at Oriel Gallery, Theatr Clwyd. From 1994 onwards she exhibited at Canyon Road Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, U.S.A. with an annual solo show, her paintings exploring the American wilderness, effects of light and weather, and Native American iconography.
From 2004 Jenny exhibited with the Castle Street Gallery in Hay-on-Wye as main artist-in-residence during the Hay Literature Festival. As well as landscape forms she explored themes of music, dance and poetry. In 2005 she had a solo show of ‘musical abstracts’ at the Mermaid Theatre, London in conjunction with the BBC Jazz Awards and C2 Gallery.
Jenny has exhibited in Switzerland (‘Songs of the Elements’ at Galerie Englische Kirche, Meiringen, 2009) and in group exhibitions in France, Italy, Germany, and Russia (Ekaterinburg Museum Of Fine Art).
Her work appears in several publications including ‘Twelve Women Artists From The NorthWest’ and ‘Miller’s Picture Price Guide 2005’. She won the Kate Fryer prize at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in 2010 and was elected a member of the R.B.S.A. in 2011.
I work in an expressionistic, intuitive way, often exploring the energy of the landscape and its underlying spirituality. My paintings vary in their degree of abstraction and explore both the physical and metaphysical. Many are inspired by music and sound.
Chris Tally Evans – music and soundscape
Chris Tally Evans is a performance/media artist, writer and equalities activist. His work has been featured internationally and on UK and international media. As well as broadcasting on BBC 2W, BBC Wales, ITV, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio 4, and BBC Radio 3, Chris’s work has been shown in the UK, USA, Canada, New
Zealand, Qatar, Poland and Finland. He has received a Major Creative Wales Award and a major commission for the London 2012 Festival.
Bettina Langlois – fine art furniture/upholstery
Bettina trained as a theatrical costumier and, latterly, as an upholsterer. Both disciplines wrap materials around a three-dimensional foundation, be it a body or a chair, to create illusion, surprise, dissonance, character. She is interested in the places where art and upholstery meet.
In 2013 she won a prize for her work awarded by Heico and the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers. The chair was exhibited at the Interiors UK exhibition at the NEC, Birmingham. In the same year, she was awarded a prize for advanced upholstery skills by the Worshipful Company of Upholders and accepted their invitation to become a Yeoman.
Bettina came to Alan Garner’s The Owl Service at Girl Guide camp in Wales, read to each other at night by torchlight. This fostered a life-long friendship with the book’s owner, for which she owes Alan Garner a debt of gratitude!
Anna Wigley – poetry and prose
Anna Wigley is a Welsh poet living in Cardiff. She has had four collections of poetry published by Gomer Press, the most recent being Ghosts (March 2016). Her work is largely concerned with the natural world (birds, beasts and flowers) and she is most honoured to be asked to contribute to this celebration of Alan Garner, an author she has long admired.
Jacqueline McCormick USA/UK – Dance Artist
Jacqueline has been teaching, performing and making dances for over thirty years, directing and perform- ing in her company DanceAbout works that take a dancing journey through the outback of the self. She is fascinated by creating movement from sensation, especially in natural environments, as captured in her dance films; Settle, Spiral and most recently The Walk, shot in Joshua Tree, California USA.
Jacqueline’s work is greatly influenced by her research into improvisation, especially Contact Improvisation. Since 1990 she has taught Contact Improvisation at numerous Contact Festivals and workshops throughout the USA and Europe, most recently at Italy Contact Festival 2016, Los Angeles USA, and Bristol UK.
As Artistic Director for Cheshire Dance 2004-2016 Jacqueline created small to large-scale site-based works involving professional artists and communities. The Moment When… 2012 involved over 900 performers, across 3 sites, as part of the NW Cultural Olympiad celebrations. Jacqueline has an M.A degree in Dance from Mills College, California, and was Associate Professor in Dance at Connecticut College, USA 2000- 2004, and Western Oregon University 1985-1996.