Old Tannery - nearly there!
8th May 2011
By the end of May the builders will finally hand over the keys of the Old Tannery to the owner - MOMA Wales in Machynlleth.
The Old Tannery today with its new bespoke windows - especially designed to retain the original walls of this old industrial building.
When Culture Colony held a conference at MOMA Wales we asked if we could use the semi derelict building that they owned next door to have an exhibition of members works on the day of the conference. They agreed to allow a one day temporary show in the building.
The longer room was already very dark but it was completely blacked out to show works by Andrew Cooper, an installation based on airport security and the potential of terrorist attack, and Mark Anderson who installed ten fluorecent lights into the rafters that attempted to come on when you trod on a pressure mat as you entered the room. The amplified sound of the lights trying to come on and the flashing tubes - never quite making it to a permanent light, together with the flashing projection of the blood vessels inside Andrew Coopers eye in his installation, brought a very sinister atmosphere to the space. But it was work that demonstrated the potential for new exciting artforms that MOMA Wales might explore here at The Old Tannery in the future.
The light first room (light because most of the roof had fallen in and only had a transparent platic covering temporarily keeping the rain out) showed the works of Stephen West, Ivan Knapp and Shani Rhys James. Shani exhibited some of her 'automata' works. One of which exploded and catapoulted itself accross the room. Good Cop Bad Cop were also in attendence moving from space to space with their performance 'Hanner Call'.
MOMA Wales were delighted with this exhibition - brief as it was because the flashing fluorecent lights were somehow affecting computers in neighbouring houses - and in 2009 Culture Colony was given permission to use the space, in its rough and ready condition, for exhibitions that continued to explore the possibilities for the spaces.
The first exhibition came together when the artist run groups of Blaengar and Framework joined forces to put on 'Catalyst' showing exciting works by members of both groups.
Osi Osmond opening Catalyst
The first solo shows for Paul Woodland - Obnoxious Processes, and Pippa Taylor - Bran Wen/Bran Du, were held here.
Paul Woodland's 'Obnoxious Processes' with material placed on the sites of the old tanning pits.
A band play beneath Pippa Taylor's installation of crows.
And artists Marged Pendrell, Jacob Whittaker and Louise Bird were able to use the space to experiment with new ideas and installations.
Part of Marged Pendrell's installation 'In Limbo' based on the diary her father kept while in detention in Sweden during the Second World War.
Part of Louise Bird and Jacob Whittaker's installation 'Loopholes'
But, we were always worried about the condition of the fabric of the building and everyone visiting the building needed to be warned about the loose masonry and probability of bits of roof falling on their heads! But we loved the space, the artists loved the space and visitors loved to see art here. The tanning industry was very important and every town would have had its tanneries where animal skins are processed using - as Paul Woodlands installation demonstrated - obnoxious processes. This part of Machynlleth must have been devoted to this industry, the nearby pub retains the name of 'The Skinners Arms'. The Old Tannery is the last historical industrial building left in the town. People worked here in this space, labouring in these awful conditions. Although art brought a different atmosphere to the building it's history is in the walls and the air itself, this all added to the creative mix and experience for everyone taking part or visiting. This period of Culture Colony exhibitions came to an end when MOMA Wales raised the money to begin the process of turning the space into a more 'regular' gallery, beginning with replacing the roof and putting in windows.
The whole process has taken far longer than expected with numerous hold ups, but we are now seeing the last elements for this stage of the building improvements put into place. The windows are all in and the access ramp is almost finished. It's a different space now, but it's also still the same. The windows bringing light into the darkness, the long room where the tanning pits were now seems so much bigger and magnificent with its high ceiling that retains the original wooden joists. It hasn't lost its atmosphere, the building work has maintained the feeling of history here. It is still a very exciting place for art and will add to the kind of art MOMA Wales will be able to put on in the future, works they have not previously been able to accommodate due to size or scale of the ambition. The future looks great for this gallery as they extend into the Old Tannery.
In the meantime, during this interim period before MOMA Wales 'officially' assimilates The Old Tannery, Culture Colony has been invited to maintain a programme of exhibitions when the space becomes available again.
We are greatful to MOMA Wales for this opportunity and we will continue with our policy of giving emerging artists opportunities to exhibit and to provide established artists a space to experiment.
The first exhibition that we are now planning for late June / early July will be a mix of established and emerging artists. We intend to show works and art forms that MOMA Wales have previously been unable to accommodate to bring important and exciting art to Mid Wales and to demonstrate the great potential of this exciting space.