Review by Sacha Waldron
The works in ‘Maelfa’ study a process of stagnancy. Of waiting, but waiting without expectancy of change, without the energy that would come from anticipation. The title ‘Maelfa’ refers to the Maelfa shopping centre in the Cardiff suburb of Llanedeyrn, ear-marked for demolition when Sean Edwards took up the role of artist in residence there in 2009. Built in the early 1970s around a block of flats (where people still live) and once a focal point of the community, it now exists as a semi-derelict ‘set’ (it was used recently as a location for Doctor Who), an abandoned concrete vision of a time-less/location-less modern and future Britain.
Edwards has chosen to focus on the texture and mood of Maelfa in his work rather than make a critique of the mechanisms that have allowed Maelfa to fall into disrepair. Large black and white giclée prints are positioned at varying heights. Daylight, placed above the entrance shows graffitied windows photographed from a lower angle, also looking up. This duality produces a new recognition of a super banal view - our eye is the camera’s eye. In the other large prints the bobbles of a lino floor, close ups of dust or detritus lie between recognition and abstraction. These segments of texture become clearer when related to the smaller prints from the series Tea at my Fathers House (Parts One to Thirteen). In one image strips and shapes of different types and styles of carpets have been patchworked together to cover the floor. The carpet fragments are assembled to form the domestic space much in the same way the larger prints work as a whole, building up fuzzy snapshots or glimpses.
The sculpture, Four Windows, is propped against the wall in the corner of this first space. With shapes reminiscent of the rounded corner-less angles of shopping centre architecture, the structures give away the flimsy execution of Maelfa’s utopian ideals. More akin to the wooden or plastic embroidery hoops used to stretch material, they seem delicate and easily shattered.
From the white space you enter a dark space and first encounter the sculpture, The Reference. Looming down from the ceiling, it is a 5:1 rendering of the roof of Maelfas’ now defunct reference library. Further along, you reach the large projection Maelfa. Taking the form of a slow portrait, or image-scape, of the Maelfa Shopping centre, we roll past The Headmistress hair salon, an un-loved community notice board, a woman waiting, blue handbag on her lap. Sometimes the camera seems to slip behind a window or curtain, giving the view a colour filter, blue, white, ghostly net curtain. This gives the film a similar textural quality to the prints in the previous space. Like Charlotte Perkins Gilmore you feel as if you are slipping into the wallpaper of Maelfa, its mood penetrating your own. Like Poe’s Roderick from The Fall of the House of Usher, we too feel the mould growing on the outside of the building, its atmosphere seeping into our bones.
Amanda Beech, Sanity Assassin, Spike Island, UK
Spike Island, 133 Cumberland Road, Bristol, BS1 6UX
Sean Edwards: Maelfa
Review by Sacha Waldron