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  • John Uzzell Edwards at Cyfartha Castle, Merthyr Tydfil

     

    Quilts suggest home, warmth, something you curl up under on a cold night or when you're not feeling well.  They become an intimate personal refuge from the swirl of life outside. 

     

    Cozy and homespun, they were often handmade from scraps of fabric; old clothes, sacks and bags. The quilts carried the memories of their creators, in the squares of cut up favourite clothes their patterns and colours dictated by the variety and availability of source material.

     

    John Uzzell Edwards has taken this process of assembling a finished whole from disparate sources and used it as a starting point for his recent paintings. Although pattern and repetition are the dominant theme in his Welsh quilt series it is the multi-layered, worked and re-worked surfaces that offer clues to his thought processes.

     

    In Dre Fach Felindre 1  the sheer weight of paint on the canvas suggests that these images are hard won.  The many changes of direction and creative decisions are buried in the layers of paint, stored memories of the discarded thought processes that went into their construction. 

     

    And construction is the best word for it.  Thick with sticky pigment and encrusted with a bricolage of found material - sacking, rattan chair bases and miles of masking tape .. to name but a few - you get the sense that any scooped up debris from the studio floor would be fair game for incorporation into these gunged up surfaces.

     

    This is painting in the raw.  Painting as object rather than depiction.  The debt to abstract expressionism is obvious and Uzzell Edwards happily cites the connection with early Pollock but there's more to these crusty surfaces than just angst ridden brush marks, there's a lot more control here.

     

    As with most large scale work these paintings have two lives; the close up and the distant view.

     

    You have to step back to get the full effect.  Given their starting points it is natural that most of these canvases have some sort of grid at their core. 

     

    In abstract paintings grids are a godsend.  They free you from the tricky business of inventing composition but within these grids there are variations: the repeatedd circle motifs of Cymllynfel II or the diamond grids of Darren and Deri I .

     

    But it is when you move in close that you really appreciate these debris strewn surfaces and the work that goes into them. It's a kind of Howard Hodgkin affair of dots, slashes and repeated marks.

     

    My only real gripe would be with the colour palette.  Sometimes it all felt like there was a little too much primary red and blue.  The exception to this was Blaenau Festiniog which oozed a rich, umber earthiness.

     

    The paintings have evocative names which – I'm guessing – represent where the original quilts came from but sometimes the references to source material left me wanting to see the originals. 

    Not for for direct comparison but I would be intrigued to track the thought process a little further.

     

    But these names also unavoidably invoke a sense of place.  Normally in paintings that would mean the landscape, the great outdoors, but Uzzell Edwards has overturned this by rooting his work in an everyday domestic object from our shared past and in doing so created work that acts as a talisman for belonging, a memory object for a collective home.

    Darryl Corner .. 04.03.09

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