Sunday, 6 April 2014
A crowded train ride to Port Talbot Parkway on a Saturday, Swansea playing football at home, and Llandovery playing rugby in Cardiff, its a tight squeeze. Arriving at Aberafan, a balmy day, a casual feeling town. Google maps takes me on a circuitous route along the back alleys lined with garages, quite 'Anthony Stokes'?. Overshooting the Tabernacle Newydd takes me further into the town, towards the looming mound of a hill behind, rows of houses framed by the concrete pillars of the fly-over, a church or chapel on every corner it seems. "Excuse me, do you know where the Tabernacle is?", "Oh now there's a question. You've caught me out, I know this place like the back of my hand, but now you ask.... its not the Pentacostal you want?", "I don't know, um, I know it's a chapel which is closed, there's an exhibition on?" , " Oh right then I think its the Newydd you're looking for, it's that way..".
I arrive 2 minutes later, not so far off course, but nice to have met that lady, saying hello to every passer-by as she walks me to the main road again. Inside the hushed entrance, a choice of directions. I take the winding staircase to my left, enjoying the feeling of anonymity, not being greeted at the door, it feels like a private exploration. I don't want to bump into anyone. I want to enjoy discovering tiny rooms, pink, peeling plaster and smooth, atmospheric photographs (Kathryn Campbell- Dodd), encountering artists' response to the wealth of historical material and ephemera found onsite (Lee Willimas), the dubious legacy of missionaries (Samoa work) , dispersed ice on paper, releasing colour and stories once trapped within - an aesthetic and poetic reflection of transience and this shell of a building (Naomi Hopkins). Sitting on the chaise longue I hear the chapels of West Wales telling their stories whilst staring at the ceiling which looks like an abandoned swimming pool (Gwrando). Then footage of bus journeys curving past chapels (Jacob Whittaker), amid the staged 'set', a still life with fresh flowers and doilies, and a vinyl of Christmas Evans, a Llandysul preacher. Fascinating too, to hear how the host and caretaker of Tabernacle Newydd has sorted the place out and different, maybe radical to see students and young people responding to the site alongside established artists like this. Exciting and stimulating. See more pictures on flickr: TABERNACLE MARCH 14
More info: http://www.colonyprojects.co.uk