Eleri Mills: Creative Wales Ambassador / Llysgennad Cymru Creadigol

During Eleri Mills’ residency at Ruthin Craft Centre in 2011 as part of her Arts Council of Wales’ Creative Wales Ambassador Award, she spoke about her work in her studio one evening with Dr Jessica Hemmings. These notes taken during her talk offer an insight into her work:

Tra yr oedd Eleri Mills yn ymgymryd cyfnod preswyl yng Nghanolfan Grefft Rhuthun yn 2011 fel rhan o wobr Llysgennad Cymru Creadigol y Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, buodd yn trafod ei gwaith gyda Dr Jessica Hemmings un noswaith gan roi golwg arbennig ar ei gwaith. Dyma ychydig o nodiadau diddorol  o’r sgwrs:

“While I was in college I started combining hand stitching with painting and that’s a process that I’ve been developing ever since. But as well as doing hand stitched work, I’ve always practice normal regular drawing and it’s the need to draw which has always fuelled my work, whether it’s in pencil, charcoal or stitch. In any case it is the subject matter, which is my main concern.

The landscape around me continues to inspire me very much and the flowing landscape of Montgomeryshire is particularly distinctive. I like to portray the gentle organic roundness of this landscape in my work. I do straightforward charcoal studies as well as ink work. I find that ink sometimes unlocks ideas because you have to be very focused – it’s not something you can rub out and you’ve ‘had it’ if something starts to go wrong. Working with ink can sometimes push me forward if I’m getting stuck.

Talking about a very intensely coloured landscape, I was trying to achieve a vivid sense of place – quite emotional actually. Inspired by the paintings of the Welsh artist, J.D Innes. These paintings were made one hundred years ago and they portray Arenig Fawr, Meirionnydd, near Trawsfynydd in almost psychedelic colours. I also did a series of quite large-scale landscapes, which were about embracing landscapes – landscapes that embrace you. Another way of portraying the Montgomeryshire landscape, which is rounded and rhythmic… 

Embroidery has the tradition of suppressing the female, but I’ve always found it extremely liberating and for instance, I choose to stitch standing up and I’m always walking when I’m stitching, which is maybe difficult for someone to understand. I work with very, very long threads which allow me to walk back to see what’s happening and look at the work in progress, because it’s merely another ‘painting’ for me – it has to have the right composition, it has to have the right balance, and I can only asses that at a distance. So if I were to stitch in static, traditional way that wouldn’t be possible to do.

Some of the stitched pieces are about layered landscapes and they’re about revealing things and listening to the landscape. They’re about the poetry of a place. The stitched process and the appliqué process seem to be perfect for interpreting landscape in those terms.

Two years ago I started a part time MA course in Aberystwyth in print making, and I’ve been going there part time ever since. During that time I’ve been experimenting with work on acetate, which is a plastic film. I ink it up and then scrape / wipe off the ink to reveal the imagery. I’ve found a very new sense of freedom in this work – it is an adventurous time for me. 

A lot of the work that I have been doing recently, particularly the work on the MA, is a celebration of womanhood. I see very distinctive female forms within the landscape – also human forms in general. These can be intangible and ambiguous as is the landscape – it’s just a natural way of looking at things.

I’ve always liked the mark making possibilities that you get with printmaking, particularly etching, and lithography as well – it’s just another method of drawing. I find it very refreshing going from one medium to another. So I like to be able to go from the printmaking to the charcoal to the pen and ink, to the stitched work – It gives me a huge sense freedom and it makes me very happy. So, printmaking is just another process that I can use to express the ideas.

I’ve always thought that the work should be highly expressive and the work that I’m doing now is almost like a choreography, which I like very much, although I find it physically very tiring and involves a lot of movement, I’m trying to get that movement through into my artwork. I find that very exciting – the possibility of creating that sense of movement in the mark making. It is something that I’d like to develop further and perhaps work with actors or dancers in the future.

The landscape is a frame of mind. During my artistic journey which started about 35 years ago the landscape has evolved and has been many things along the way from the very graphic imagery for the National Farmers Union commissioned panels (which had to be correct in detail) through to figures within an ancestral landscape to the very emotional landscapes that I have been producing recently on the MA in Aberystwyth on the acetate. It’s an on-going artistic adventure, so it’s a job to know how it will develop over the next year or so. But I am very grateful to have been given this Creative Wales Ambassador Award, which will allow me to go to new places and to absorb new influences.”

As part of Eleri’s Creative Wales Ambassador Awards, she is undertaking a residency at Columbia University, New York until the end of April 2012. We look forward to see how her work has developed during her time in the Big Apple.

We caught up with Eleri Mills during SOFA New York and here’s a video of her talking about her time as a resident artist at Columbia University and her presentation at SOFA:

Fel rhan o wobr Llysgennad Cymru Creadigol, mae Eleri Mills yn ymgymryd preswyl yng Ngholeg Columbia, Efrog Newydd tan ddiwedd Ebrill 2012. Rydym yn edrych ymlaen i ddarganfod syt mae ei gwaith wedi datblygu ers eu chyfnod yma.

Dyma Eleri Mills yn siarad am ei chyfnod preswyl yn Ngholeg Columbia, Efrog Newydd ac am ei chyflwyniad yn SOFA Efrog Newydd:

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