The chapels of Rhosllannerchrugog

Gwenno Jones introduces a new art and craft exhibition at the Wrexham Eisteddfod

Visitors to the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham over the coming week will be able to see unique portraits of some of the area’s old Welsh chapel buildings. A brand new collection of works by textile artist Cefyn Burgess is part of the art and craft venture Celf…a chrefft.

The collection includes portraits of nine chapels in Rhosllannerchrugog including Capel Mawr, Mount Pleasant, Mynydd Seion, Bethel, Ebenezer, Bethlehem, Penuel (illustrated above), Seion and Salem. Some of these institutions continue to play an important spiritual and social role for people in the area, whilst others form unique features of townscape as well as being a treasured part of the area’s rich heritage.

Winner of the 1992 Gold Medal for Craft, Cefyn Burgess has become known for his many stitched portraits of chapels up and down Wales. He has also travelled to Liverpool and Pennsylvania, USA to research, portray and exhibit Welsh chapels. However, this is the first time he has focused to such an extent on this area of north east Wales.  As he explained:

“Drawing my inspiration from my own cultural background has given the fabrics an instinctively Welsh look but with a reinterpretation of the traditional. I have been interested in the chapels in Rhosllanerchrugog for a while and when Celf…a chrefft asked me to exhibit with them at this year’s Eisteddfod, it was an excellent opportunity to really concentrate on these beautiful buildings.”

Cefyn Burgess was brought up in the quarrying town of Bethesda, Gwynedd but now works at his studio and shop at the Ruthin Craft Centre.

As well as featuring Cefyn Burgess’ new collection, this year ‘Celf…a Chrefft’ will also include four new artists for the very first time. They include winner of the 2005 Gold Medal for Craft, Pamela Rawnsley, as well as textile artist Ruth Harries, and visual artists Nikki Pilkington and Gethin Wyn Jones.

The artists also include the recognised names of 1997 Fine Art Gold Medal winner, Iwan Bala and 2009 Gold Medal for Craft winner, Lowri Davies.

Originally from Bala, Iwan has a multi-disciplinary approach to his practice, involving wall hung painting and drawing, assemblages and site-specific three-dimensional work with a sort of ‘mapping’ of his feelings towards Welsh identity and culture. As he says:

“For me, visual art is a matter of culture, a means by which I can fumble around within my own background and roots, in order to discover some flicker of light. Art is provocative, and needs to question every false certainty and every fabricated icon. After all, history and tradition is the work of man, and is a moveable feast, growing and changing with time. The sign of a strong culture is that it allows for re-invention and a questioning of everything within itself.”

Iwan has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad and participated in several international site-specific art events. He has published numerous books, articles and essays on contemporary art in Wales, as well as presenting and researching television programmes, lecturing, and managing public art projects and organizing and curating exhibitions.

The exhibition will also feature a new collection of work in bone china by Lowri Davies, winner of this year’s Creative Wales Award by the Arts Council of Wales. Since graduating from Cardiff School of Art in 2001, Lowri Davies won the Young Artist Scholarship at the National Eisteddfod in the same year. Raised in Aberystwyth, she has been a member of Fireworks Clay Studios in Cardiff since August 2003 and has since received a Distinction in MA in Ceramic Design from Staffordshire University and won a Craft Gold Medal at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 2009.

Lowri Davies’ Welsh heritage is a major source of inspiration. Vibrant illustrations of birds, landscapes, floral and fauna adorn her own distinct bone china tableware designs of tea sets, vessels and vases. These reference typical china displays on Welsh dressers and ceramic souvenirs. Lowri is now producing techniques using bone china which are influenced by her period of study on the MA Ceramic Design course.

Having had her first solo show with the Ruthin Craft Centre, Lowri Davies has been represented at major exhibitions in Wales and internationally. She will be representing Wales at the Festival Interceltique de L’Orient, France this August.

Celf …a chrefft will be celebrating its fifth year at this Eisteddfod. It first appeared in 2007 when the Festival was last held in north east Wales just up the road in Mold. Since then, the project has grown and has become a well-established and valued addition to all art and craft lovers’ visits to the Maes.

Gwenno Jones works for Wales Arts International and is co-organiser of Celf …a chrefft

Also within Culture