Oriel Wrecsam

This exhibition intrigued me from the moment I first heard about it. The title conjured up all sorts of ideas, and I was not disappointed when I visited the gallery last week.

The works of Steffan Jones-Hughes overlap through several genre. There is print explored through dry point and screen-print. There is drawing, painting with inks, and three-dimensional works in the form of small mammal bones, boxes of eggs, and sketchbooks displayed in glass cabinets. Despite this variety of work, the exhibition holds together through the narrative subject matter, and through the primary use of monochrome with only occasional accents of colour.

The works explore the idea of the fragility of identity and belonging, and although this appears as quite a personal narrative, the question that it evokes in the viewer is universal for all. Most people at some point in their lives are acutely aware of the fragility of life. The loss of a love one, loss of the stability of their lives through illness, divorce, loss of jobs etc. For me, Steffans work expresses the transience of life in a very powerful, emotive way. The fragile egg, a lamb, a child, and the use in several of his pictures of the imagery of the small defenceless bird, all these suggest vulnerability. The stark use of black and white, reducing images to their basic elements, leaves the viewer pondering the flimsy and whimsical nature of each of our existences.

The exhibition appears a personal one, combining images taken from family life, with sketches made in guardian journals. These are displayed in a way that feels like a series of movie stills hung side by side expressing each moment of the artists life as it unfolds. The personal nature of the work reminds me of Anita Kline’s prints, where her subject matter usually revolves around those closest to her.

I found the work exciting. The energy shown in the marks of the dry points, the immediacy of the sketches taken from the sketchbooks, the care in using the eggs as a ‘canvas’ for carefully executed images. But the work also challenged me in several ways. I found the subject itself, and the way the exhibition was hung thought provoking, and the way the images were produced made me question my own current artistic practise.