A Written Tour of Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

by Carys Svendsen

Picture the scene: it’s a typical Swansea day and you’re walking into town whilst horizontal rain is striking your already soaked and freezing body. You suddenly see a building with crisp, white tables and red chairs. You notice the little coffee side through the glass panel and the inviting reception. You find yourself walking through the glass doors and as you drip on the polished floor, you see stairs to your right and the promised land of caffeine on your left. If you can see all this, you’re in the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.

Now go up the stairs on your right. Behold! You have entered the gallery. In front of you lies a rather majestic hallway (if you look up, you can see the whole building) as well as an almost Titanic-esque stairway to the second floor. Feel free to check out rooms 1 and 2; room 1 currently hosts a room of lino prints (including several prints in Warhol-like colours) but my personal highlights were up the stairs in rooms 3-9. Ascend the stairs like royalty (waving is optional) and you’ll notice the glass cabinets full of various ornaments. Feel free to take a photo of the sight before you, I won’t judge. From there, I entered room 4, a room which is part of the ‘Journeys between Art & Life: Richard Glynn Vivian (1835-1910)’ exhibition, running until October 2019. In here you see an Arcadian view of Swansea in 1840 which views Swansea untouched by industry. When you walk into the next room, you enter a room of ornaments: if you ever want to take a picture of varying depths for Instagram, the entrance of room 4 looking into room 5 and 6 is perfect for your profile.

Room 4 is possibly the most anxiety-inducing room due to the sheer amount of fragile objects surrounding you, and yet the most mesmerizing due to the vast array of objects and their origins. However, my personal favourite was in room 7 with the artist’s timepieces in a cabinet in the left-hand corner. Not only were the timepieces beautiful, but reading time, a seemingly mundane yet essential task,  is created in multiple ways by artists who enhance the pocket watch faces to help develop a creative outlook within time itself. If that’s not a metaphor for the artist’s lives, I don’t know what is.

Moving on to room 8, you enter a unique exhibition which is a part of the ‘Journeys and Visions’ exhibit. It’s important to note that you can take photos of any room, apart from room 8. In here you’ll find a painting called ‘The Painter’s Family’ which provides an abstract view of 2 parents holding a baby with the world bursting from their chests. It’s an awe-inspiring image and worth a look as well as a debate over its meaning with your friends in days to come.

In the penultimate room (room 9), you enter a dark room with a screen placed diagonally across the left-hand corner with a projector opposite. It’s an immersive experience due to the sounds used and the nostalgic images in front of you. Some images provide a perspective of looking through the ‘cigarette burn’ effect usually found in old films (and in a more modern context: Fight Club) and into old photos. The whole exhibition by Bob Gelsthorpe is inspired by his grandfather’s toolbox as well as exploring themes of labour and memory.

Finally, you enter my favourite room: room number 3. Home to Helen Sear’s ‘The rest is smoke’, once again the use of projectors is evidently clear, but it’s the use of the projectors which intrigue me most. In one part of the room, there is an image of a woman with a red dress circling trees in a sparse forest. The colour red is the dominant colour of the images and the movement of the woman is a key focal point. Having seen the new It, the woman’s movements reminded me of Pennywise due to her erratic movements. Be warned: this part of the room has a lot of flashing images.

After walking past the first projection, you see a projected image on the floor with a reflective ripple effect. It looks like you’re looking into a supernatural lake and yet simultaneously looking up from the forest floor, which is an effect I personally love. However, this exhibit ends on the 19th November so make sure to go and see it whilst you can!

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