A month long festival of exhibitions, discussions, screenings, performances, events and celebrations in both physical and virtual spaces and places.

Tim Davies, Drift, 2011

+ - Tim Davies:


9 March – 26 May


Drift is an ambitious new film installation by Tim Davies presented in the contemporary galleries at National Museum Cardiff. Taking Venice as its subject, the installation is comprised of three individual films, Drift (2011), Frari (2011) and new workCapricci (2013). Shown together for the first time they present a powerful and poignant portrait of Venice, creating links with the way the city is represented in the Museum’s collection by artists such as Canaletto, Monet and Whistler.

Drift and Frari previously featured in Tim Davies’ Wales in Venice presentation at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 organised by the Arts Council of Wales. This is the first time this important body of work has been shown in Wales.


Image: Drift, 2011 © Tim Davies

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Platform 2 Visual Notes

We have commissioned artist Laura Sorvala to create visual documentation of our platform debates, which are a series of free evening events, each dedicated to one of the Platform themes and led by prominent artists and thinkers. Click Laura Sorvala Sketchnotes here to view a full screen PDF of Laura’s sketchnotes.

The second debate took place at Fire Island 15 May entitled “The artist is not responsible to anyone” and was led by Shaun Featherstone.

Visit Platform to find out about our upcoming events and to vote and comment on the provocations.


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Debbie Savage on Tim Davies’ Drift

You don’t have to have visited Venice to construct an image of the city. Its architecture, canals and history have been well documented by artists and tourists alike, giving its unique topography a presumed familiarity and romantic quality that reaches far beyond the city limits. With this in mind, it seems fair to ask, is there anything new or unseen for an artist to bring to a city that has inspired countless reproductions and an impressive canon of works?

It is, perhaps, in response to the ubiquity of these mediated images that Tim Davies produced the three films in this exhibition; Drift, Farari and Capricci. Two of the pieces, Drift and Frari, were developed in Venice over a six-month period for the 54th Biennale in 2011, with the third being filmed for this exhibition in 2012. Rather than trying to further ‘represent’ the city, Davies carefully abstracts moments and spaces to create an intimate portrait of his experience of place. Identifiable landmarks are replaced by atmospheric and closely focused images that could relate to any city, yet are unmistakably routed in this city.

Drift shows a gentle and slow journey along the Venetian canals. As the artist’s hand gently skims the water, buildings are subtly reflected in its rippling surface. Capricci creates movement by blending a series of still images to add an enduring quality to the lapping of waves against a man-made shore, accompanied by the distant mechanical sounds of a working city. Whilst creating quite different impressions and experiences, both films produce a sense of time passing beyond the immediate moment, of the artist as an ultimate flaneur, literally drifting across the city and temporarily intersecting with parts of its narrative.

Frari, is shown in opposition to these works and creates a darker, claustrophobic and frantic vision of the city. Using images taken whilst running up the steps of a gothic church (the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari), the work lurches from light to dark as the sounds of the city, tourists and church bells becomes almost unbearable until we are finally forced out into a blinding white light. Here the immediacy of experience and narrative is more distinct, yet something about the flashes of light and the snatched glimpses of the building’s interior convey something of Venice’s history.

Indeed, the three pieces in this exhibition seem to quietly reference the long history of artists who have taken Venice as their inspiration. The flashes of light in Frari in part mirror the golden light in Monet’s San Girgio Maggiore by Twilight, the abstracted buildings in the rippled water are reminiscent of other works in the National Museum’s collection like Sickert’s The Rialto Bridge, Venice. This gives a sense of consistency to Davies’ work, linking it to Venice’s rich history of artistic practices, but delivering a particular kind of immediacy that can only be delivered through video works.

Through these subtle references to Venice’s artistic traditions, Davies’ work is firmly routed in the city, but its closely focused attention provokes a sense that he is skimming the surface of Venice and presenting a distinctive, personal experience unencumbered by the dominance of past images. Rather than documenting the city, Davies uses his position as an artist to gently disrupt assumed ideas and reflect on our relationship to place; our unique but impermanent experience of a city against the relative permanence of its light, its architecture, and the waters flowing through its canals.

Debbie Savage


Tim Davies: Drift

9 March – 26 May 2013

National Museum Cardiff


This essay is available as a downloadable PDF here.

Dawn Wooley - Wild Oats

+ - Various Artists:

Wild Oats

Milkwood Gallery

4 May – 18 May

Miina Hujala, Noemi McComber, Ellen Sampson, Dawn Woolley

Wild Oats brings together a group of artists who use food and the rituals of eating to comment on contemporary life, gender and commodity culture. Miina Hujala’s film Illallinen (The Dinner) explores the complex identification and idealisation processes that take place during courtship. In Prise d’assault (Under Assault) Noemi McComber addresses issues of overconsumption, and the handling of waste while depicting unrestrained violence in a performance of “soft stoning by way of food.” Dawn Woolley’s still life photographs and sculptures contemplate the gender distinctions upheld through commodity culture and the rituals of food consumption. Ellen Sampson and Dawn Woolley will collaborate to create a variety of small, edible sculptures which will be served to the public during the exhibition opening. Based on ideas of romance and desire the objects will offer a surreal take on everyday entrees.

Exhibition supported by Arts Council of Wales.


Image: Celebrate, C-type print, 2012 © Dawn Woolley

Urban Quilombo

+ - Sebastian Liste:

Urban Quilombo

Third Floor Gallery

4 May – 23 June

Urban Quilombo is a testimony of a place that no longer exists. Between 2009 and 2011, Sebastian Liste documented the community of Barreto, an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. From 2003, dozens of families occupied the factory and transformed it into a home. Until then, these families lived in the dangerous streets of the city. Tired of the violence and despair, they came together to seize the deserted factory. They created a microcosm in which the problems of drugs, prostitution and violence could be tackled with the support of the community. In March 2011, the government evicted the families from the factory, in one of many attempts to clean up the visible poverty in the centre of Brazil’s cities.


Image: From Urban Quilombo, 2009 – 11 © Sebastian Liste

European Chronicles

+ - Various Artists:

European Chronicles

The Cardiff Story

1 May – 31 May

Mindaugas Ažušilis, David Barnes, Tina Carr & Annemarie Schöne, John Duncan, Anna Kurpaska, Catrine Val, Artūras Valiauga 

European Chronicles puts forward a vision of contemporary Europe as experienced through photographic work reflecting various personal, family and community stories. This small selection of individual projects is drawn from the vast pool of diverse photographic talent that exists across Europe, currently under-represented at the major exhibiting and publishing centres in London, Paris and Berlin. The exhibition launches European Prospects, a two-year project examining the role of photography and digital media in developing and presenting an alternative iconography of Europe and European experience from the mosaic of photographic imagery being produced in the region today.

Elin Høyland – The Brothers is also presented at Norwegian Church Arts Centre as part of European Chronicles.

A Ffotogallery project funded by the European Cultural Foundation and European Commission.


Image: Victoria from Feminist, 2011 © Catrine Val


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Alexander Norton on Maurizio Anzeri’s But it’s not late it’s only dark

Consumed within thread

Thread is integral to the work on show in Chapter. I remember a talk by Maurizio Anzeri 4 years ago when photographs and stitch were first combined, and there appears to have been advancements on this idea. Using found imagery, facial features are smothered by the craft of thread, physically marked in a gentle action provoking life back into the photograph. These become sculpted into physical objects, creating a form of life lifted from the frame, looking at peoples’ heads, their human qualities through the photographic process, but consumed with markings on a more physical level. Continuously trapped, with no invitation to escape. This experience does not feel negative; it feels like a creative progression on the already sleeping people that have become objects through their life living in a photograph. The static quality of the archived photograph becomes transformed into an empty sheet of paper to create history once again, starting from an elevated position.

It is not just people, but objects and spaces that form a detailed reflection on living. Spaces transformed into contraptions of a repetitive nature, relentless in their consistency. As a yearn for escape to nature through the imagery of the sea, blocked by the constructions we live under, the four walls we rely on to survive.

Everything is there to see, but we cannot see it. It is hovering between craft and the finding of images, as open ended as the sea’s limits. As scale becomes taller, the thread consumes everything, reflected creating an incomprehensible task to escape from the physicality of things.

Although, the subjects depicted are not trapped, but merely entwined within the complexities of living, dying and existing, always, within a frame.


Alexander Norton


Maurizio Anzeri: But it’s not late, it’s only dark
1 May – 30 June 2013


This essay is available as a downloadable PDF here

Photo Copyright: Portrait Purple, 2012, Embroidery on photo, Maurizio-Anzeri

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Kirsty Mackay’s Pop Up Studio Portraits

Sat 4 & Sun 5 May
The Cardiff Story, The Hayes

Sat 11 & Sun 12 May
Milkwood Gallery, Roath

The Pop Up Portrait Studio is a mobile, outdoor photography studio, offering everyone a free portrait session. The studio popped up alongside the Diffusion venues in Cardiff and you can see all 110 portraits that Kirsty has taken above. Participants can also pick up their free print at Cardiff Story where the work is being displayed as a temporary exhibition.

“It is much more than a photo booth. I photograph everyone that comes along. I love being surprised when someone that I might not have thought of photographing, stands in front of my camera, and all of a sudden I see something in them. If I can then capture that – I can make a good portrait.”


g39 - Barnraising and Bunkers

+ - Various Artists:

Barnraising and Bunkers


8 May – 29 June

Uriel Orlow, Abigail Reynolds, Angharad P Jones, Rich White, Dan Griffiths, Geraint Evans, Jonathan Powell, Richard Powell

The built environment, despite the desires of architects and planners, grows organically from the people that inhabit it. It is an ongoing dialogue and not fixed. The urban and the rural are often set up as polar opposites, the former synonymous with presence and the latter with absence. Asking the question ‘Where are we now?’, the exhibition looks at the human drive for shelter, and how we choose to build. Whereas Barnraising epitomises collective action and co-operation, bunkers suggest the opposite. Bunkers are shelters built for survival, excavated as opposed to built; they isolate and separate the individual from the world.

Barnraising and Bunkers puts together artists that engage or interact with architectural or physical structures, as well as those that work collectively to accomplish things greater than the abilities of the group. It is also a wider examination of those spaces that are flagship structures for art and contrasts them with the often isolated and separate means of their production, the studio.


Image: g39 – Barnraising and Bunkers


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Ariane Parry on Alicia Bruce’s Encore

Encore is an ideal exhibition for the format of the Diffusion Festival, with themes of performance, community and inter-generational connections slotting neatly into the venue of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. A short walk down the corridor from the exhibition offers a glimpse of the creative world of the students in the form of stage costumes, paintings and posters for plays, refusing a clear boundary between the practice of Bruce, her subjects and the college.

The exhibition consists of two sets of portraits, both of musicians and both taken during Bruce’s residency in the town of Blanaevon. The teenage musicians have been photographed in a pose imitative of the James Ward painting A Young Man (1851). Is Bruce using a younger art form to look backwards, or bringing ideas from the past forward? Should we consider her borrowing of this image an act of inspiration or adaptation?

Encore resembles Bruce’s work on the residents of Menie Estate in its examination of a community’s way of life through a framework of referencing older works. The use of A Young Man as a mould raises questions about authorship and originality in her choice of form, although in the clear, bright faces of the Blaenavon musicians there’s a strong sense of who they are, and of Bruce’s ability and affection for the community.

There’s perhaps a sense of cynicism in Encore about the very idea of representing a community like Blanaevon through portraiture. By referring back to the same painting in each portrait the question is raised of whether identities, locations and cultures are compromised by photographic representations, and we’re led to consider the limits of the medium’s representative capabilities.

But the artificiality of this technique is mostly used to celebratory effect, allowing the subjects to display their love of performance in a manner that works in a visual medium, and picks this out as a cohesive theme crossing generations and responding to history.

As her subjects imitate A Young Man, Bruce accompanies them in imitation of James Ward. This sense of empathy between artists working in different mediums is one of many exciting themes throughout the festival that encourage audiences to reconsider the mutable boundaries of photography. It is an accessible approach to this question and as May goes on, it’ll be great to see these ideas debated on Twitter and Facebook.

For anyone especially interested by Bruce’s reference to Ward, the exhibition is only a short walk away from The National Museum and Art Gallery, which is just across the road and provides alternative historical contexts for enjoying Encore. I’d particularly recommend the exhibition ‘People, Personalities and Power: Faces from Wales 1800 – 2000’


Ariane Parry


Alicia Bruce: Encore

1 May – 29 May 2013

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama


This essay is available as a downloadable PDF here.

Photo Copyright: Blaenavon Male Voice Choir (3), 2011, Alicia Bruce