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Review: gallery/ten, Debbie Smyth & winter group exhibition

(December 18, 2015)

Review: gallery/ten, Debbie Smyth
& winter group exhibition

gallery/ten, Cardiff - runs to 23 December 2015

gallery/ten, Windsor Place, Cardiff



Gallery/ten is based in the lovely Windsor Place, a genteel street in Cardiff city centre that evokes an era of Edith Wharton-like carriages and crinolines. The late-autumn leaves blowing in the wind reflect the orange of the brickwork.

Large sash windows let in acres of light and in the upstairs parlour of number 23 you find two rooms and a staircase that are stylistically somewhere between a high class dentists and a white cube gallery. In short, the perfect venue for good quality contemporary art that sells.

gallery/ten interior
gallery/ten interior

An ambitious start-up that took ten artists it believed in, project/ten encouraged and developed their practice and their saleability. Cat Gardiner was a true gallerist on a small, yet sincere scale and made sales and exposure happen with regular temporary pop-ups that saw a moveable art feast travelling around Cardiff. For the last five years they have held regular seasonal shows and solo exhibitions, and have evolved to become gallery/ten. Their latest 'winter/gaeaf' group exhibition launched this week and runs until 23 December 2015.

2015 has already seen several well received solo shows, for example THROB by Artes Mundi nominee, and Eisteddfod Gold Medal winner, Sue Williams. The work examined the powerful topics of sexual dysfunction, female sexual autonomy and the issues surrounding what can still be a taboo subject. Williams communicated scenarios with each image and created a body of work that included music, dance, poetry and conversation.


Outline, Debbie Smyth

Debbie Smyth, Outline - gallery/ten
Outline, Debbie Smyth, at gallery/ten
Turn Around Bright Eyes (left), Eyes Wide Open (centre), Read Between the Lines (right)

Gallery/ten's most recent solo show Outline, by Debbie Smyth, was her first with the gallery. As she is one of the original artists, it was a pleasure to see a range of her work that illustrated how much her practice has developed over the last five years.

Smyth is a textile artist and works in way that is not conjured by that description. She draws with cotton thread using long slim pins to hold the line in place. The thread is pinned to board, so creates a visual tension more sharp than you would find had they be placed in a yielding surface like a pin cushion.

Eyes Wide Shut (detail), Debbie Smyth Carousel (detail), Debbie Smyth
Eyes Wide Open (detail), Debbie Smyth, 2015
nail & thread, 125 x100 cm
Carousel (detail), Debbie Smyth, 2015
nail & thread, 100 x 85 cm

I recall her earlier work that was mostly monochrome and with added elements of paper, most notably a fairground ride from the view of the rider. This show encompassed a large variety of visual imagery including a reworking of the same idea, Carousel. This work is more successful as the viewer is placed under the swirling ride, giving a sense of excitement and peril, which is hinted at by the structure of the work.

Out to Dry (detail), Debbie SmythOut to Dry (detail), Debbie Smyth, 2015
nail, thread & acetate, 53 x 64 cm

The collected works, nearly all made in 2015, are Smyth's take on illustration, portraiture, neon art, graphics and sculpture. Most work is framed and able to be displayed at home. Her portraits particularly show the planning and understanding of line as delineating the image and shading the form with intricate cross hatching effects of triangles. The line of a shoulder or curve is implied by its absence and this confidence and skill can be seen in her little portrait of a house and garden with washing line, Out to Dry.


Turn Around Bright Eyes (detail), Debbie Smyth   Crane Chain (detail), Debbie Smyth
 Turn Around Bright Eyes (detail), Debbie Smyth,
2015, nail & thread, 125 x 100 cm
 Crane Chain (detail), Debbie Smyth, 2015
nail, thread & paper, 74 x 54 cm

Her sole sculptural piece - using an origami cloud and rain made from many colours of grey thread - certainly feels at home this season and hints at the rest of her practice. Smyth's work encompasses large-scale wall installations and she has exhibited nationally and internationally. Maybe gallery/ten could have a pop-up large enough to bring some of these to Cardiff in future ... please?



Until then, come and see the range of artists' work showing in the current group exhibition, as gallery/ten celebrates its third anniversary.

gallery/ten winter/gaeaf

John Abell - Swooping Owl Laura Ford - Sorrow filled cat
Swooping Owl, John Abell, 2015
woodcut, 91 x 61cm
Sorrow filled cat, Laura Ford, 2014
steel, jesmonite + fabric, 105 x 59 x 70cm

Elfyn Lewis - Y Bore Ynay bore yna, Elfyn Lewis, 2015
acrylic on board, 30 x 32cm

Susan Phillips - no. 29 i
no. 29, Susan Phillips, 2015
porcelain, 15 x 39 x 11cm


Jennifer Pearce, December 2015

winter/gaeaf exhibition runs 4 to 23 December 2015
Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 till 6 and Saturday, 10 till 5, admission free

First Floor,
23 Windsor Place
CF10 3BY
02920 345978

Jennifer Pearce is the founder of Art Club and can be followed on Twitter

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Cardiff Carnival 25th Anniversary Exhibition, March 2015

The Lumen Prize, December 2014

To This I Put My Name, Claire Curneen, March 2014

The Albany Gallery, Cardiff
, Christmas Exhibition, December 2013

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, September 2013
Response, Annie Giles Hobbs, June 2013
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     Review: St David’s Hall exhibition space - Triad and Mount Analogue, January 2013
Review: St David’s Hall Christmas Exhibition, January 2013
     Taming the Drew? Graffiti as art,
September 2012
     Review: Nothing Like Something Happens Anywhere - Chapter Arts Centre, Canton, Cardiff, August 2012
     National Museum of Art, contemporary galleries, March 2012


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