Ambivalence towards Roma continues to endure in the minds of Europeans. The figure of the Gypsy has greatly influenced artists and thinkers of the avant-garde from the nineteenth-century romantics to the Bohemians of the early twentieth century. Such unorthodox approaches to creative living, as personified by the Gypsy, have an important role to play in rethinking society, yet those same transgressive possibilities continue to fuel mistrust wedded to the notion of Roma as unfixed, un-rooted, and more significantly—unaccountable. The casual conflation of the lives and traditions of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities with asylum seekers and refugees—as political subjects and as fantasised ‘other’—has created one of the most misunderstood and marginalised sections of society. Shifting perspective can reveal that those very qualities which mark Roma as suspect at the same time represent a compelling potential to challenge boundaries and perhaps offer new ways of understanding ourselves and our lives together.
Shiftwork brings together four artists who through their work tease out a number of aesthetic and political issues concerning Gypsy, Roma and Traveller lives through cultural representation. Some of the works on display were shown as solo presentations as part of the Gypsy Maker project; an initiative launched in 2014 by the Romani Cultural & Arts Company to profile the work of GRT artists in venues across Wales. Their ongoing aim is to commission established and emerging Gypsy, Roma and Traveller artists to develop innovative works while engaging GRT communities and the wider public in dialogue about contemporary art and cultural perspectives.
Each of the artists takes a different approach – from the documentary style of Artur Conka, one of the few Roma to have recorded their own community on film, to the sculptural installations of Daniel Baker which examine the aesthetic mechanisms of migration and free movement. The idiosyncratic paintings of Shamus McPhee have a distinct ‘outsider art’ feel while complex issues of identity and gender are explored in the eclectic work of Billy Kerry. These unique approaches to contemporary Romani culture draw people together by highlighting the links between communities whilst at the same time recognising and celebrating difference. This exhibition presents newly commissioned works developed in dialogue with g39 alongside a number of existing works produced over the lifetime of Gypsy Maker project.
Gypsy Maker is an innovative, ground-breaking concept devised, owned and developed by the Romani Cultural & Arts Company – the only Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Arts Development organisation in the United Kingdom. This 2018 project is supported by Arts Council of Wales and is commissioned by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company’
Exhibitions of ‘Gypsy Maker’ will be at the following venues between these dates:
3rd March to 14th April 2018 –
g39, Oxford St, Cardiff, CF24 3DT – FREE ADMISSION – Wednesday to Saturday 11am – 5pm
5th May to 2nd June 2018 –
Art Central Town Hall, King Square, Barry, CF63 4RW – FREE ADMISSION – Monday to Saturday 10am – 4pm
1st September to 29th September 2018 –
Oriel Wrecsam, 11 Chester St, Wrexham, LL13 8BE – FREE ADMISSION – Monday to Saturday 10am – 4pm
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