A unique collaborative audio/visual installation created from material gathered during the construction of the recently completed micro-hydro scheme at Blaen Dyar above the Clydach Gorge. By Penny Hallas and Leona Jones - artists in residence with HYDRO, Llangattock Green Valleys CIC, Brecon Beacons, Wales.

A response to re:Source by Graham Hartill

Symmetry conjures the physical body, particularly the face. We see faces in nature of course; we see ourselves in all of nature’s coming alive to consciousness, and symmetries of flow in the deeper, generative body: we configure, pattern, or make fields, from the world’s phenomena, unifying things. At the start of life we like to land into a symmetry of the great new other: the face, the body’s, containment and reassurance.

Then our energies grow and diverge: without a channel there is no flow, but without a friction there is no electricity; yes, ‘without contraries, no progression’. re:Source is in part an affront to a merely passive perception of ideal symmetry, a kind of discomfort. This earth’s body, it shows us, is replete with dangerous power; the flow is live and generates, and the thought of electric power made from water, as a round of creation, is comforting: warmth, light, and vitality.

But here it is also raw material, raw perception: natural force is presented in symmetry, then not, like an alternating current. Look, here comes green, as a little luminous leaf floats into the field of vision from right to left, on one of a thousand streams, and is perfect. There we are. But then we are overwhelmed.


The fact that the work can be seen by some as ‘angry’ or discomforting is what calls for response, and dialogue, with its images: these spaces, subterranean, both organic and metallic; these men, like eternally labouring hi-viz ghosts; these broken symmetries, layerings, pictures and sounds, now dawdling, then quickly rushing away. Men hover, scraping into strange terrain. I think of surgeons as much as of engineers; I’m certainly considering male control of the constructed or the re-constructed world or body. It’s like we are peeking through little apertures into the enormous surging of the Mystery, and the frames of our perception – the screen, the speakers, the room itself – are resistances, shapes or pressures, that makes it possible to see it and hear its music at all, that makes the energy of our involvement possible.

I watch men, machinery, overlaid, or X-rayed, on gynaecological patterns, skulls and bodily microcosms: Is that a cell or a follicle, made huge? It’s an insect kaleidoscope! And there’s not really scale in this world, except for the one that the human bodies bring.

When I was a child I discovered diagrams of naked men and women in what used to be known as a ‘medical book’ in my parents’ bookcase. The re:Source installation speaks to me of these first and lasting secret – about what’s really going on.


This is from Ernest Becker:
“As I see it the history of mankind divides into two great periods…In both periods men wanted to control life and death, but in the first period they had to rely on a non-machine technology to do it: ritual is actually a pre-industrial technique of manufacture: it doesn’t exactly create new things, but it transfers the power of life and renovates nature. But how can we have a technique of manufacture without machinery?
Man controls nature by whatever means he can invent, and primitive man invented the ritual altar and the magic paraphernalia to make it work. And as the modern mechanic carries around his tools, so did the primitive scrupulously transport his charms and rebuild his altars.”

(Escape from Evil)


Apparently, in the ‘water-flow analogy’, sometimes used to explain electric circuits by comparing them with water-filled pipes, voltage is likened to difference in water pressure. Current is proportional to the diameter of the pipe or the amount of water flowing at that pressure. A resistor would be a reduced diameter somewhere in the piping and a capacitor/inductor could be likened to a “U” shaped pipe where a higher water level on one side could store energy temporarily.

Blood in the vein is also electricity of course, and the earth is a dark, living thing. Yet here we are, in our masculine high-viz, channelling, digging, dependent.

Graham Hartill
July 2018

Thanks to LGV, BBNPA’s SDF, and A&B Cymru’s CultureStep Investment Programme to strengthen and develop Jones and Hallas’s creative partnership with LGV.

A&BCymru50mm  LGV logo sml SDF Logo_CMYK (2)

Eurydice / Orpheus event

still 1 O&E filmstill 2 O&E film still 3 O&E film

Artworks and film clips alongside poetry, performances and readings on the subject of the myth.
Glasfryn Seminars 23 March 2013.

In my Orpheus / Euridice drawings and film clips I am interested in breaking up the narrative and scattering the charcteristics which are generally attributed to particular protagonists, so that each element in the story has a new relationship to every other element.

Presenters at the seminar included Dr. Angie Voela on French artist Bracha Ettinger, who regularly draws on the myth of Eurydice.

For more details of the day see Glasfryn Seminars

Y Lle Celf, Eisteddfod Wrecsam

image courtesy of Brecknock Museum and Art gallery

image courtesy of Brecknock Museum and Art gallery

40 drawings from the Orpheus project were shown at Y Lle Celf, National Eisteddfod Wrecsam 2011.

Gwilym Morus was commissioned as the Art Space Poet at this year’s National Eisteddfod, Wrecsam. One of the ten pieces he responded to in the exhibition was the ‘Orpheus drawings’. His response was in words and music, so as well as the lyrics going up on the wall alongside the work, he also recorded an album. Orffiws is the ninth track on the album: the words are given below, and the album can be heard by following the link to Gwilwm’s website, below.

Ymateb i ‘Orffiws’ gan Penny Hallas

…sef bardd chwedlonol y Groegwyr a rwygwyd yn
ddarnau gan ferched gwyllt y Bacchanalia.

Mae darnau bach ei hunan
ar chwâl ymysg y chwyn -
y bardd anfarwol truan
wedi’i hau fel hadau syn.

Yn ymraniadau amwyll
ei gyflwr chwith caiff fyw,
ag yntau’n gasgliad gorffwyll
o greiriau rhyfedd, gwyw.

Mae bellach yma’n rhythu
lle nad oes iddo hedd,
a’i ffrwythlon ddatgymalu
yn gwrthod iddo fedd.

Gwilym Morus (2011)

Dilyniant yn nhrefn yr albwm lle Troediaf Ymddengys y Llawr
Ewch i www.caneuon.com/babellgelf

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru Wrecsam a’r Fro                                                                                                                       www.eisteddfod.org.uk

Penny’s Heads

crowds at opening night at ElysiumSome thoughts on Elysium show by Graham Hartill

What else could represent so clearly the idea of spirit, mind, soul, whilst remaining so incorrigibly and bafflingly, a material object? – writes the artist. Bafflingly? I’m grateful to Penny for drawing my attention to this word, its etymology pointing to implications of disgrace and vilification, scoffing; the Norman French ‘baffer’ meant, apparently, ‘to slap in the face’. A baffle is something that changes the course of something, a thought perhaps, or an energy flow. We look at a head, particularly a face, for recognition of an other’s self, of course, but as these paintings indicate, a head may be more akin to a helmet or mask, than to a transcription or emblem of its bearer’s actual life experience. Either way, it’s what we see, what we make, of another, on first encounter at least.

What cultures down the ages have certainly realized is that the head is a locus of power, both spiritual and material; in fact, the head can be seen as the ultimate embodiment of the truth that, to quote the American social theorist Ernest Becker, all power is sacred power; there’s more than an element of ritual sacrifice in the beheading of a king or criminal, or the toppling of a tyrant’s statue, noosed, like Saddam’s or Stalin’s.

It’s not just in the heart of colonial darkness that men have gone head-hunting – it happens in Canary Wharf and Cardiff, and wherever the paparazzi ply their trade. The Society of the Spectacle is a world of recognitions and reflections. It is a metaphor that reaches back to the myth of Osiris and beyond, that is caught in the story of Orpheus, whose severed head went floating down the stream, still singing, just like Elvis’s. The corn god rises to meet his beheading, just like Jesus, caught in Bosch’s painting, still amongst a swirl of animal appetites. Culture depends on this.

We put on our masks with the growth of what we call our personalities, and shape them throughout our lives, or try to; we survive perhaps to the extent that we succeed. Someone said that by 50 or so we’ve all got the masks that we deserve. When, as children, we learn to differentiate I from Other, when we create our first strong subjectivity, our first sentence in fact, which is our striving to act in the world, our first self-consciousness, then we see our heads, our faces, in the world’s reflection. Thus can the head, like Orpheus’s, be regarded as synonymous with utterance. And of course if someone is silent, then it is baffling, fascinating: What are they thinking – of us perhaps? Or what are they dreaming? – which none of us, not even the dreamer herself can understand – see for example Odilon Redon’s dreaming, floating heads.

Penny’s paintings toss up a carnival of mental states or dramas. For me they question any distinction we habitually make between biology, spirit and social power. They come from the same considerations that I suspect she encounters working as a therapist, using art as a space of encounter between participants, some of whom struggle with verbal expression. We see images of dismemberment, of warfare, secrecy, encounters and imprisonments; veils, masks, pedestals, curtains, helmets. For me the idea that any picture holds a mirror up to ourselves is made explicit; all of these heads are mine, living out my life in that peculiarly human state of knowing my self, my face, and what I am – an animal with self-consciousness – from which I make my theatre.

5 October 2009

Graham Hartill’s selected poems, Cennau’s Bell was published in 2005 by the Collective Press and 2007 saw the launch of A Winged Head by Parthian Books). He is Writer in Residence at HMP Parc, Bridgend and teaches creative writing for therapeutic purposes at Bristol University.

email: graham.hartill@tiscali.co.uk