BLOG Michael Tomlinson

NWR Issue 110

Eluned Glyn, MOMA, Machynlleth

Before this autumn you were as likely to have seen the work of ceramicist/artist Eluned Glyn in Cardiff, London or even Milan than in her native Machynlleth. Thankfully, with her exhibition in the Ruralist Room at MOMA, Machynlleth, Y Tabernacl, running until 23 January this is no longer the case. Educated at what was then Ysgol Bro Ddyfi in the town, she went on to do Art Foundation at Carmarthen before taking a degree in Ceramics at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She graduated with a first class honours degree in 2012. Since then she has quickly established herself as one of Wales’ most precocious artistic talents, winning in May 2015 the Gold Award for a Collection of Finished Work at the National Urdd Eisteddfod.

Glyn’s current collection, Minimus Maximus, explores one of her favourite tropes, that of remaking. She describes her making process, which begins with collecting old china from flea markets, charity shops and friends and relatives: ‘First I break up and re-construct the pieces into a solid block of clay, which is then cast in plaster to about 6 parts. These pieces are then cast with earthenware slip and fired three times in the kiln to complete the body of work.’ By breaking the old pots carefully she manages to preserve the elements she wants to reincorporate into her pieces and so retains some memory of their original character. In this way the past is echoed and a determined modernity is achieved at the same time. Even within the confines of, say, a tea service, each piece retains its individuality. There is an inherent internal tension, a literal striving for balance since the pieces are, in their asymmetry, eccentric. They never seem to sit entirely still within their own space. Each holds a reminder of the past, indistinct and soft edged, blurred like our memories themselves as we age. Eluned Glyn’s own memories include the china on her grandmother’s dresser; these inspired a preoccupation with the conflict between function and display. Issues are at play such as the merits of ‘best china’ versus the every day; a collection’s arrangement, and how this can be seen as a reflection of personality. It is this tension between the beautiful smooth glaze and the suggestion of old pottery fragments pushing at this skin that creates such a powerful metaphor for elusive memory.

The jugs in the window of Y Tabernacl look stunning as you drive past at night, spot-lit before the darkened gallery space, their silhouettes perfectly revealing the cubist roots of Glyn’s pieces. The angled planes and lack of ‘logical’ shape confuse the eye and subtly play with perspective and viewpoint. And yet these larger pieces recall through her choice of source material and construction the over elaborate, over decorated styles of the nineteenth century that would define the table centrepiece. This idea is undercut by the very deliberate use of modern mass-produced elements for handles or as embellishment, together with a lack of colour and decoration save for a trace of gold detailing. In this way the works remain, with their clean, white, shiny surfaces, the epitome of modernity.

Some of the pieces inside the gallery suffer from being displayed in table top cabinets though they are crying out to be placed on shelves around the walls at eye level where their deceptive contours could better work their magic. There are two wall pieces, small platters created in the same manner and shown off to advantage against rough-cut grey painted wooden panels. These represent a new and exciting direction in Eluned Glyn’s oeuvre, a triumphant coming together of past and present, of dysfunction and wit.

Michael Tomlinson blogs on art for New Welsh Review.

Eluned Glyn’s work can by seen at MOMA, Machynlleth, Y Tabernacl, Machynlleth, Powys, until 23 January 2016 Gallery opening hours: Monday – Saturday
10am – 4pm, Closed 24-28 December & 1 January. artist website


previous blog: Words & Words & Words, December, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
next blog: Minging Detectives, Aberystwyth Arts Centre


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