In this instance the materials are drawn from the University of South Wales’ sculpture workshop, which is being decommissioned. The sculpture workshop has always provided a treasure trove of material inspiration for students on art courses. The exhibition acknowledges the way an institution such as a University evolves and the way buildings are re-purposed. For instance, the Treforest campus is located on the site of the former South Wales and Monmouthshire School of Mines. Nearby, Pontypridd Museum holds old newsreel footage of students at work in the 1950’s forming glass laboratory equipment in the rooms adjacent to Oriel Y Bont in Ty Crawshay Building, which before it became the School of Mines was the home of the Industrialist Francis Crawshay and the site of his tinworks.
In borrowing the term ‘The Periodic Table’ from Mendeleev’s organisation of the elements by atomic weight, the exhibition takes a lead from the Italian writer and chemist Primo Levi, who uses the chemical elements as metaphor for life experience and the human condition. In the opening chapter, entitled Argon, Levi compares his Jewish ancestors, for their ability to retain their distinct identity, with the noble gases, which do not combine or react with other elements. Both the book and exhibition celebrate the magic of transforming base elements into new matter fulfilling the ambition of the alchemists but not in the way they imagined.
The exhibition also includes contributions from staff, alumni and students of creative writing who have been commissioned to respond in kind and a new film by Sharon Magill recording the sights and sounds of the sculpture workshop shortly before its closure.
Opening event Thursday 17 October 2019 6 – 8 pm