images of hortus conclusus at the mission gallery

Keith’s exhibition opening at the Mission Gallery in the Maritime Quarter of Swansea was well attended, despite Wales being awash with icy rain. During the drive from Aberystwyth we were beset with sleet, snow and heavy mist, but we prevailed and arrived in time for me to have about forty minutes to take in this beautiful exhibition before the crowds arrived and I had to address them. Below are some images of the lovely figures Keith has conjured. Made from the thinnest shells of tissue paper as delicate and as light as dried leaves, they trembled in the drafts from the many people moving around them and shimmered with the tinselly gleam of gold-leaf. I came very close to purchasing the pair of feather embellished feet, but in the end acquired an angelic head emerging from a box because I knew just where it would one day live at Ty Isaf.

Cast from layers of tissue paper laid into plaster moulds, Keith has pieced together the two halves of this figure with no attempt to disguise the resulting seams. That decision makes evident his process of work in a way that I find oddly touching. The painting is so delicate that it feels as though the stains of pink are blushes on white skin.

The briefest diadem extends gilded rays, almost as though the sun is rising from her face.

The Mission Gallery was once a chapel, and here the Annunciation dove bearing its un-scrolling message hovers against the curving, whitewashed  plaster of the apse.

These angels have no wings that we can see, though the pair of feet with tiny pearly toenails has ankles fringed with feathers, perhaps referencing an earlier heavenly being who delivered messages from Olympian gods to mortals.

One artist in praise of another.

23 thoughts on “images of hortus conclusus at the mission gallery

  1. Wonderful, tender and moving work in the perfect setting for it. I’m so glad to discover it. I thank you for posting the pictures Clive, and Keith for creating the work.

    • It’s a beautiful installation Zoe. Moreover the individual pieces were for sale… not always the way with installations… and we managed to acquire one. (Not photographed in the rush and tumble of the day, but I’ll post an image when we take delivery.)

  2. Clive, Thank you for the posting. It is so generous. Thank you all for the comments. I am overwhelmed with the response, both on the night and your blog and emails that have arrived today. Lovely things have happened, William’s widow Carys Brown has asked me to find a suitable niche in her home to make a ” little visitor ” window. This sort of encouragement is so necessary.

    • Your opening was a great success Keith, as it deserved to be. You created an ‘art space’ that was profound and beautiful, and those who came recognised that and celebrated it. Now stand back and enjoy the reactions of visitors.

      I suggest you acquire a ‘comments book’ for the space that can be used for the duration of your exhibition. I think that people visiting the gallery would like to share how they feel about their experiences of what you’ve done.

  3. These are all beautiful, but I’m especially touched by the winged feet, and that gold diadem on the head of the ethereal Lady — how well these sculptures express the body’s fragility and also its underlying strength. (Another balloon/tissue paper crafter weighing in here!)

  4. What a wonderful gallery–those niches look marvelous with the sculptures. What was the building originally? The interior shutters for those arched windows were a clever idea, and the chapel-like quality of the end chamber goes so well with the pieces.

    “Raw” seems right–delicate and raw and exposed. I can see how the feet must have appealed, especially since you’re still “greening”–those feathers are leafy.

    Sudden long-forgotten memory: when I must have been about nine years old, I made lots of enormous Easter eggs out of tissue paper laid over balloons . I felt surprised at how strong and hard they were when finished, even though they still looked quite fragile.

    • The gallery is beautiful, and moreover Peter’s parents Dick and Rosemary were amongst those who assured the building’s safety by helping transform the space within when it was no longer required for use as a chapel.

      I always have a soft spot for winged ankles. My own once had a little fringe of fair hairs above them that always remind me of vestigial feathers, though now they have become fainter than ever with age. Perhaps it was these that made me so fast and light when I was a dancer! Mercury’s gift.

      Balloons covered with gum-strip were a feature of my own childhood too, cut in half when dry and the hollow shells used to make masks. I’d forgotten but you’ve jogged long-dormant memories.

      • As children we did the balloon thing, too… only we wrapped the balloons with coat button thread and then dipped them in a thick solution of laundry starch. When dried, and the balloon carefully removed, we were left with wonderful spherical and ovoid forms which seemed to have been loosley woven around thin air.
        xo AM

        • Anita, I remember using starch with my colored tissue, but that does sound appealing–stiffened silk buttonhole twist would make marvelous forms.


          Clive, that sounds like something E. Nesbit children would be using to make masks, down in the cellar nursery with the black beetles! Wish I had thought of cutting my lovely eggs in half for masks… Though I do remember making papier mâché masks.

  5. These are so delicate and strange and beautiful, they make me want to look and look, and the space is just perfect for them. That recurring rosy red is delicious – the lady taking the photo of you has it in her hair too! I can see why you were drawn to the leafy/feathery feet.

    • I thought that this exhibition and the space for which it was made would appeal to you Lucy. It is a marvel. I intend to visit again if I can. There are paintings too, though I’m afraid that my photographs of them were not good enough to post. Keith is by practice a painter, and these are the first three dimensional works that he has exhibited.

  6. I love the delicacy of these. They are unexpectedly tender and raw and make me feel as if I have intruded into their space… and this feeling is only from photographs!
    I especially enjoy the one with the two heads peeking from the shuttered window. It’s a genius use of the available niches…

    • I agree with you Anita on all counts. Marly has just e-mailed recalling that she met and spoke with Keith in the kitchen the day of the Ty Isaf garden party. He was showing her our copy of the beautiful book he made for the Old Stile Press, White Voices.

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