Friday 8 July 2022
11:30 am - 1:00 pm
Panel of Speakers:
Introduction: Dr Zehra Jumabhoy, Art Historian and Curator (University of Bristol)
Panelists: Dr Samuel Raybone, Art Historian (Aberystwyth University), Ceri Thompson, Curator, Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Abby Poulson, Artist
This event will take place on zoom.
Hidden amidst the fluttering pearly sails and cerulean skies of William Adolphus Knell’s oil-painting, Shipping off Oystermouth, Mumbles (ca. 1825) we see a minute flag waving: the vessel is flying the colours of the East India Company. As she glides across Swansea Bay, the ship links Wales with the British Empire, of which the Subcontinent was a vital part.
However, the past is still with us.
It could be argued that relations between India and Wales stretch to modern socio-economic equivalences too. Wales was a hub of British industry through its production of black gold: coal. The industrial history of South Wales – and the coal miners’ strike in the 1980s – continue to be pivotal to the nation’s self-definition. The failure of the strike and the closure of the mines have had lasting socio-political ramifications. The story of the demise of industrial Wales is echoed in India: Mumbai experienced a painful end to manufacturing, with textile mills being forcibly shut down after the failed strikes of the 1980s. The vanishing of this ‘industrial past’ made for systemic changes in the country, even as the city became the financial hub of a globalising India. Bombay changed its name to Mumbai as part of this shift in status, just as Bangalore morphed into the IT-capital Bengaluru.
For both India and Wales, the industrial past has contemporary relevance. Port Talbot’s steel works is still a major employer in South Wales. But now the tables have turned: it is owned by Tata Steel, an Indian company which belongs to the famous old Parsi family of South Bombay, who established themselves in the port city in colonial times. Thus, industrial relations between India and Wales continue to impinge on the economic prosperity of both. Yet, the subject has been generally overlooked in (art) historical scholarship.
This inter-disciplinary event, part of a collaboration between Welsh and Indian institutions, attempts to shed light on these over-looked industrial connections. The Panel, composed of artists, curators, historians, and sociologists, explores the modern and contemporary art of India and Wales as well as their debt to their (often shared) industrial pasts and presents.
Free. Booking essential.
Please follow the link here to register: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIscO6pqj8rHdy7nKMvW3OUIj5RsMgK0GTU
Introduction: Dr Zehra Jumabhoy, Art Historian and Curator
Title: Art & Industry in India and Wales
This section will explore modern and contemporary art from India and Wales as it addresses the industrial landscape. It will track the politics of such works, which often deal with marginalised or deliberately forgotten histories. Artists featured in this talk with include Vincent Evans, Jack Crabtree, and Joseph Herman (featured in the exhibition Art & Industry: Stories from South Wales, currently at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery) as well as Indian artists such as the painter Sudhir Patwardhan, the film-maker Amar Kanwar and the dynamic multi-media artist, Prabhakar Pachpute (one of the six winners for the ninth Artes Mundi Prize 2021).
Dr Samuel Raybone (Art Historian), Aberystwyth University
Title: Landscapes of the (Welsh) Imagination: Art, Industry, and Impressionism
Landscapes have offered nations’ narrators a ‘recurrent metaphor’, bringing together the deep past and the collective present. Postcolonial theorist Homi K. Bhabha’s disjunctive vision of the modern nation resonates closely with the cultural construction of modern Welshness explored by this exhibition. In particular, it provides a way of understanding the acute disjunction between, on the one hand, the sublime mountains and picturesque ruins by which Wales was known and, the urban and industrial tumult by which Wales was, from the late nineteenth century, increasingly lived.
This talk explores the long history of the cultural construction of Wales via the representation of its landscape, culminating in the collection and display of Impressionist landscapes in South Wales in the early twentieth century. Impressionism was intrinsically modern. It represented modern life and inculcated a modern way of seeing: ‘unfettered’, ‘vivid’, ‘fearless’. In Wales, as elsewhere, Impressionism captivated those whose fortunes were made through industry – Gwendoline and Margaret Davies & François Depeaux – and was exhibited for the benefit of industry’s toiling masses. The arrival of a modern way to represent the landscape chimed with the necessity to reconstruct Welshness in the maelstrom of modernity. At the same time, the circuits and networks by which Impressionism was imported to Wales were congruent with those which intertwined Wales’s industries into global capitalism and British colonialism. This history underscores the constructed-ness of nations and the permeability of their boundaries.
Dr Samuel Raybone is an art historian, specialising in the history and historiography of Impressionism, and presently Lecturer in Art History at Aberystwyth University. His current research examines transnational and decolonial approaches to Impressionism, including the complex relationships between transnational circuits and national imaginaries in the collection, display, and reception of Impressionism in Wales. His chapter ‘Provincializing impressionism: the Davies sisters, French impressionism, and Welsh identity in 1913’ is forthcoming in the bilingual edited volume, Collectionner l’impressionnisme / Collecting Impressionism.
Ceri Thompson, Curator, Big Pit: National Coal Museum
Title – ‘The integration of pit, people and union.’ – The coal industry in Wales
There are two major coalfields in Wales, situated in the north and south. The country is remarkable for the wide variety of coal types which cater for a wide range of uses. However, this is accompanied by poor geological conditions which has resulted in numerous accidents and different working practices from the rest of the UK.
In all coal mining areas, there is a close relationship between coal and the local community This is especially true in Wales where many villages only came into being because of the coal industry and were virtually single occupation communities with large concentrations of miners.
Although unionism was slow to develop in Wales, it quickened at the end of the twentieth century and, by 1914, the South Wales Miners Federation was the largest single trade union in Britain.
The industry contracted from 1921 but remained important, especially during the oil crisis of the 1970s. This period saw the NUM winning two national strikes but also led into the last great struggle of 1984/85.
Ceri Thompson left school at 16 and spent the next 16 years on the coal face at Cwm Colliery, Llantwit Fardre. After redundancy in 1986 he attended Coleg Harlech and University of Wales, Cardiff. Since graduating he worked in various museums and archives before becoming the curator of Big Pit in 1999. At present he is researching the rescue and recovery aspect of the Aberfan disaster of 1966.
Abby Poulson, Artist
Title: Exploring Deep Place: The Quarry
Through the presentation of visual documentation and personal responses to two rural quarry sites in Wales, this talk will explore how the histories of the industrial landscape, and the hard labour of extracting stone influence the way these lands are recognised today from a young generational, welsh perspective. By exploring the present traces of the land, we will be questioning what is a natural landscape, and how can an abandoned, restricted ground of danger be returned to us and used to help shape our future?
Abby Poulson is an artist currently based in Wales. Using photography in a multi-disciplinary sense, Abby often combines digital and alternative processes to explore ideas surrounding our relationship with y tir (the land), the environment and Welsh identity whilst drawing inspiration from her immediate surroundings in the rural. Abby graduated from Swansea College of Art in 2020, where she achieved a BA in Photography in the Arts. Since graduating, Abby has been practising as a freelance artist, photographer and emerging curator. She is currently a research assistant for We Live with The Land, The Land as Other, a transdisciplinary project interrogating artists’ use of landscape as a subject in Wales. Her recent projects include The Gathering Ground, a photographic document that explores Wales’ relationship to water, and Y Chwarel, a continuous exploration into the quarried landscapes of Wales, which is currently on ‘The Screen’ at Mission Gallery, Swansea.