Swansea Museum Residency: Matthew Thompson

Mission Gallery are working in partnership with Swansea Museum to create space for an artist in resident to explore and develop their work in response to  the Museum’s photographic archive for artistic research.

The chosen artist for this residency is Matthew Thompson, a BA (Hons) Photography in the Arts graduate from the Swansea College of Art, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Highly commended for his degree show work Mission Gallery felt that this residency would be beneficial to his practice.

​His work represents a personal pursuit of significance within the vernacular, the everyday. By photographing the world aroundhim, everyday movements and engagements serve as means to form a narrative; highlighting poignant moments, reminding – to quote Barthes – of what has been. As a photographer, this relationship with the transient becomes a form of meditation. Responding to curiosity with little conscious contemplation involved, he takes an intuitive approach at the time of photographing. In subsequent editing and sequencing, he embraces formality. The images exist in the moment they took place – interested only in the atmosphere that emerges.​


Matthew: My work has always been centred around this notion of the found; I don’t like to plan or intervene with subjects. For me it has become really important to aim to approach things with equanimity. I’m really attracted to the idea of reacting to something intuitively through photography.

I entered the residency with very minimal knowledge and experience of Swansea Museum itself, and what struck me straight away was the volume of items, all logged, categorised and stored away somewhere. I immediately started to photograph items within this collection, but was drawn towards the objects, over things like the paintings and photographs.

For me the endless props and items I found almost bizarre.

I often think about photography within book form and in a linear and sequential fashion and want to re-appropriate as much of the Museums archive as possible into my own catalogue, hopefully pulling out interesting juxtapositions.

I want to try and form an abrasive relationship between images, something that doesn’t sit too neatly or easily on the page. I’m not entirely sure why I am feeling this way inclined so far but I’m hoping that will become clear through the next two weeks. It may perhaps be to do with the surface disorder that surrounds the clearly heavily organised nature of the whole archive. There are these pockets of seeming disorder, where things appear to have been pushed aside, forgotten and almost hoarded. That is what appeals to me most through the archive.

Anything that is property of Swansea museum I want to try and utilise, whether that be something that is a part of the official archive, or something that sits quietly to the side. For instance, I’ve been down to the cellar underneath the museum, I’ve photographed parts of the buildings I’ve been in, in search of something interesting to explore.

Ultimately I want to have photographed thousands of things within the granted time-frame and then work the images down into a coherent body and sensible number.



New Designers 2015 and the search for Mission Gallery’s Graduate Showcase

New Designers 2015. Image by Rachael Leahy WEB

As part of my new role as Retail Assistant within the Mission Gallery  I was invited to accompany a colleague to Part One of the New Designers show 2015 in London.  The show gave me a whole new outlook on the possibilities and the innovation within contemporary craft and design.

The main objective in attending the show was to scout for recently graduated designers to exhibit within our annual Graduate Showcase. Having never been to New Designers before and not knowing what to expect, I was astounded at the size of the space and the volume of work to see. The show gave me a chance to develop and expand my knowledge of work created within the bracket of craft and design.

Through being trained within the discipline of Fine Art I’m used to talking about creative practice in a slightly different way, looking heavily on concept and how well the piece translates its ideas to the viewer. But the work within New Designers was a lot more functional and decorative, with items including clothing, ceramics, utensils, jewellery, etc. I was drawn and focused on asking more practical questions of durability, development of the product and why certain materials and processes were used within certain pieces. Having one to one conversations with the designers really made me connect to the work in a deeper way and gave me the opportunity to question and divulged into further detail of the ideas and making of their products.

With regards to the Graduate Showcase, it was a hard decision for my colleague and myself to choose between such a great group of talented individuals. Mission Gallery has a strong connection with contemporary craft and design and for the show we were focusing on artists, makers and designers who have showcased excellence within their specialised field; highlighting those that are pushing the boundaries of traditional concepts and ideas.

Watch this space for August 4th; you will certainly not be disappointed.

Written by: Rachael Leahy, Mission Gallery’s Retail Assistant

Cork Craft & Design Exchange |05 – 07 August 2014

Following an invitation from Cork Craft & Design (which we happily accepted – I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland) for a cultural exchange of sorts.

Cork Craft & Design is a voluntary organisation of Cork craft makers (comprising of all craft disciplines). Its aim is to represent all professional craft makers within the City & County of Cork, working towards making the area a recognized city of excellence – Cork Craft Month (5th August – 5th September) is an important tool in this.

This was an opportunity not only to visit Cork Craft & Design but to share ideas and to research Irish based makers. We had been invited to talk about how we work as an Art & Craft gallery, combining both exhibitions and Craft Space. It is our ethos as Mission gallery ‘to nurture development and to push the boundaries of Visual and Applied Art’, offering exhibition, Craft Space and Residency opportunities to both emerging and established artists and makers.

Having arrived and met Carmel Creaner, CCD’s Secretary (and my guide for the trip), we headed out into Cork – first stop: Designworks Studios, Cork. A beautifully curated jewellery gallery and workshop space run by jewellery designer Tuula Harrington, renowned for hand-selecting Ireland’s most prestigious and talented jewellery designers and goldsmiths. Following a tour of makers work, Tuula, Carmel and I fell into conversation over the importance of aiding new and emerging makers – not only through volunteering and internships, but offering forums to which these makers can be introduced to those already in the industry.

A brief visit to the English Market for some much needed sustenance, followed by a visit to the Lavit Gallery. The Lavit Gallery is one of Cork’s longest established galleries, dedicated to promoting the work of artists and makers who have achieved the highest artistic levels ranging from the traditional to the contemporary. Filled fit to bursting – it was hard to know where to look first!

Onwards to Mary Enright’s Goldsmith & Jewellery Gallery in Kinsale, and a sneak peak at a new collection she’s working on (simple yet beautiful) for IJL: International Jewellery London. A quick detour to Enibas and coffee then to the main event of the day – the launch of Cork Craft Month with the curated showcase exhibition of Motive, at the Old Mill, Kinsale. A chance to see some selected makers work, nicely curated by Stephen McNamara (the sheer amount of vinyl lettering was phenomenal, yet it brought the whole exhibition together in a simple and effective way – vinyl and I do not get on by the way).

Motive Annual Showcase Exhibition | James O’Neill Building, Kinsale | 05 – 14 August 2014

Having met some lovely makers and seen examples of high quality work, it was fair to say that the first day had given me some food for thought!

An early start (with a full stomach) for day 2 – Cork Textiles Network’s Re:View exhibition was first point of call. The presentation at the ready (and slideshow working – thankfully), I introduced the network to Mission Gallery – a selection of exhibitions, craft space, makers, education and aims. The Re:View exhibition itself is held in Macroom. A large space can sometimes be daunting yet it had been filled well – the work had been curated in a way as to draw you around the room, allowing each maker their own exhibition space which merged well with the next.

Re:View exhibition | Cork Textiles Network | Town Hall Gallery, Macroom | 01 - 23 August 2014
Re:View exhibition | Cork Textiles Network | Town Hall Gallery, Macroom | 01 – 23 August 2014

A short car trip through lovely countryside to Tony Farrell’s workshop and an array of hand-turned bowls and platters await us – elm, beech, oak and lime. The Clay Works exhibition awaits us (although still being set-up), fortunately due to Carmel’s forward planning this does not impede us – we are expected and are free to wander through The CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery. Even in its unfinished state it is easy to see that the exhibition will be a success!

Clay Works Annual Members Exhibition 2014 | CIT Wandersford Quay Gallery, Wandersford Quay, Cork
Clay Works Annual Members Exhibition 2014 | CIT Wandersford Quay Gallery, Wandersford Quay, Cork

The Cork Craft & Design Pop-up shop at the Douglas Village Shopping Centre conveyed how effective it can be to take Craft out from a gallery environment. As most galleries or Craft shops will know it can at times be a challenge to introduce the general public (who are not used to visiting art establishments) into a space like this yet the pop-up shop seemed to do this easily.

Back again to the city centre and to the collective studios at Sample Studios. A visit to Nuala O’Donovan’s studio is on the cards and I’m getting just a little excited! A sculptural ceramicist based in Cork, her work is pattern based, intricate as well as pristinely clean. From there we visit Lesley Stothers with her wire spoons and paper pieces at her very organized studio and Thomas Campbell at his somewhat less organized but equally creative space.

The day underlined the importance of keeping in touch and working with others within a creative space – of not only creating work but of discussing/sharing/swapping/chatting/arguing ideas and concepts. To look for opportunities to broaden our own and other’s practices and to find Craft’s place within a business orientated society.

Mission Gallery and I would like to thank everyone (especially Carmel and Tony) for this fantastic opportunity of viewing a small snippet of Cork Craft & Design and to wish the very best to all with their own practices. This exchange is a relationship we hope to build on in future, and following the trip we would like to offer a Maker in Focus opportunity to selected Irish makers (names to follow soon)…

Go raibh maith agat

Ephemeral Coast | Gemma Copp


I work predominately with film and installation, often filming in isolated and secluded places or places perceived to be so by the viewer. My work aims to raise a flux of visceral emotions relating to identity and basic human emotions and concerns.


Gemma Copp is a Welsh artist, who currently resides in Swansea, her city of birth. Graduating with a BA in Fine Art from Swansea Metropolitan University in 2006, Copp went on to complete an MA in Contemporary Dialogues in 2009 at the same University. Copp has recently taken part in the Glynn Vivian’s Artist in Residence program. Copp has shown work nationally and internationally and has recently exhibited work at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh, and at the Mannheim Film Festival in Germany, where she received a special commendation from the judges. She was awarded Welsh Artist of the Year in 2012.

Image 3

Space  2014

Film, 40 mins.

With its continuous body of salt water covering most of the earth’s surface, the sea is seen as a geophysical body with the tidal rhythms acting as its lungs. The sea is a constant reminder of life, where its continuous tidal motions breathe existence into nature’s habitat and fuel the cycle of regeneration. But what if that were to stop? Life is given value because of its transient and impermanent nature, and the coastline can be just as fragile and ephemeral. What if the rhythm were to be damaged and the cycle broken? Would nature’s balance disappear with the low tide, never to return? Within the piece you see a melancholic, motionless figure, dressed in black, with her back to the viewer. It appears that she is stood, balancing on top of the sea, as the waves repeatedly roll around her. The sea appears to be in balance at this point but as the once high tide turns to low tide and disburses around the figure, it gives the impression that something menacing is about to happen. The colour and focus of the horizon, that once was clear and inspiring, creating feelings of happiness and limitless possibilities, instead now offers the viewer visceral feelings of concern and desolation.

Ephemeral Coast | Fern Thomas



Fern Thomas is based out of Swansea, Wales, UK. Rooted in the processes and principles of Social Sculpture, her work explores the potency and transformational capacities of the image in its broadest sense and interrogates her relationship with the ecological, archetypal, and mythological world. Manifesting in action – live or documented – her process-led and intuitive explorations often take the form of a physical interaction or ‘meeting’ between herself and a place, a dream, a history or another being.


Thomas is the winner of Mostyn Open (2011), was a recipient of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Award (2011/2012), was awarded the Interdisciplinary Arts Prize (2013) at Oxford Brookes University for her work during her Masters in Social Sculpture, and received a Creative Wales Award in 2014 to support her ongoing research into participatory forms and their relationship with sustainability. Thomas received her MA in Social Sculpture from Oxford Brookes University, working with Shelley Sacks, where she developed the post-apocalyptic research unit Institute for Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands.

She co-initiated the collaborative and pedagogical groups Art’s Birthday Wales and Forever Academy, works closely with her key collaborator Owen Griffiths, and is a member of the Social Sculpture Research Unit based in Oxford, UK.


From the Watchtower


The Sea and We;

A love affair

A catastrophe…


From the Watchtower will see the transformation of citizen into learner/observer into active participant. Expanding on a woman’s daily practice of watching the sea from her top floor flat overlooking Swansea Bay, the Watchtower will be activated by the use of a high stool by the window to sit on and the day-long focus and observation (sometimes with binoculars, sometimes without) of the sea.

Across several weeks full days will be dedicated to the act of observing the sea. This act of considered mindfulness will attempt to focus on the sea only, without distraction, holding the image of, and also ‘being with’, the sea. This will provide the space to notice the shifting tides, the changing colours of the sea and also things about the sea which the woman does not yet understand.

At the end of each day observations and thoughts will be transformed into a spoken word / sonic interpretation of the day which will then be made available on the online From the Watchtower Radio Station.

Although in essence a lonely process, with connotations of a future world where a person sits looking at the sea for something yet unknown, this research will extend to include other women who live on the same hill. They will be invited to contribute their thoughts and experiences of having a daily relationship with this body of water visible from their homes.  Pre-established contact with others who have a relationship with the sea such as academics working with climatic change and oceanography at Swansea University will form a bank of expertise to call upon at appropriate times during the process (forms of contact and evidence of dialogue to be confirmed).

There will be a resulting sound archive available online as part of the radio station and a small publication will also act a document of the process. This will be printed by Like Lichen a small handmade publishing press and will be the first publication by this press.

Ephemeral Coast | Stefhan Caddick


Artist Statement

I am interested in the savagery of the natural world, misremembered episodes from political history, the three-minute single and not knowing the way. My work, whilst taking a range of forms from film to installation, drawing to performance, is unified by an intellectual and aesthetic rigour. I approach the act of making work with an interest in the process itself and will sometimes invent ornate, often ridiculous systems or methodologies as a mode of production. My work is at once darkly melancholic and blackly comedic.


Brief Bio

Stefhan Caddick is a Wales-based artist who works in video, installation and performance.  His practice is often a collaborative engagement that sources its materials from institutions, communities and individuals. With an interest in process itself, Caddick invents ornate systems of production that are both melancholic and comedic. He is the recent recipient of the Major Creative Wales Award from the Art Council of Wales (2013), and has been commissioned for various artistic projects including Pickle Lane (2013) at the Fourth Wall Festival, Ghost Parade (2012) at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival and The Magician’s Cat (2004) at the Welsh National Opera. Caddick is currently a visiting lecturer in Creative Sound and Music at the University of Wales College, where he also earned his MA in Documentary Photography.

Drowned World

“The low night sounds of the jungle drifted over the water; occasionally a marmoset gibbered or the iguanas shrieked distantly from their eyries in the distant office blocks. Myriads of insects festered along the water-line, momentarily disturbed as the swells rolled in … slapping at the canted sides of the pontoon” JG Ballard, ‘The Drowned World’, 1962

Taking its starting point Ballard’s novel of the same name, Drowned World comprises a functional, scaled down prototype of a junk rigged floating survival craft. The craft sits at the centre of a fictional, faceted environment, reminiscent of early video games.

Like Ballard’s 1962 novel, the installation asks questions about what happens to people when the edge is redrawn; and the enduring allure of natural catastrophe – ‘the-end-is-nigh’-ism – as evident in the biblical flood story as it is in contemporary debates about climate change. It also stumbles into issues about migration and whether there’s a survivalist thread hidden within the contemporary ‘maker’.

Ephemeral Coast is an international, 4-year curatorial research project curated by Celina Jeffery (University of Ottawa,Canada).