Yma Ac Acw / Heir Und Da / Here And There
A hundred years ago they were enemies but now there are strong links between Wales and Germany, as a new exhibition highlights.
Heather Eastes of The Welsh Group – one of the organisations involved – reveals more about the project.
It was 1973 when, as an Aberystwyth University student, I arrived for a semester at Düsseldorf Art Academy.
A man in a hat sat on the entrance steps to the academy, drawing on the ground – a sea of students and some local rough sleepers surrounding him.
This was Professor Joseph Beuys, a father of performance and conceptual art in Europe and who now has a room at London’s Tate Modern dedicated to his work.
He had accepted 400 students for the summer semester of 1973 – not the designated 1% – and he had just been sacked. Declaring that he would not deny any undiscovered Pestalozzi chances in life, he stayed on unofficially for the next 10 years, fighting his case, still teaching, misunderstood by the authorities and adored by his students. He accepted a professorship at Hamburg and won his case.
Beuys believed in the creative power of art to heal lives.
Among the students at the time were many members of the present Düsseldorf Association of Visual Artists, the BBK.
One of whom, Irmgard Kramer, together with myself has initiated the International Exchange Project, entitled Yma Ac Acw / Hier Und Da / Here And There, with a series of exhibitions in Wales this year, shared between BBK and Welsh Group members.
BBK is also showing work by guest artists, Diana Rattray, Dagmar Triet, Edith Oellers, Professor Jörg Eberhard, Ruth Bussmann and Stephen Reader, and there will be two shows for Welsh Group members in Germany in 2015.
It is hoped it will raise awareness of the world-class art being produced in Wales - not seen often enough beyond Welsh borders or abroad, with current financial cuts destroying opportunities for artists at home.
The anniversary of World War 1 presents a great chance to do something about this.
The artists of the Welsh Group will show their work in Düsseldorf at BBK KunstForum Gallery in 2015, and in nearby Hilden.
The BBK has spoken about its wish to deepen international friendship and exchange of ideas between Welsh and German artists.
The project will provide a chance to remember the great contribution of German artists and emigres from Nazi repression in the ‘30s and ‘40s - artists like Fred Konekamp and Heinz Koppel who took refuge in Wales, and infused Welsh art with their ideas, and were also early members of The Welsh Group.
Yma Ac Acw/Hier Und Da/Here And There was the trilingual title suggested by German sound artist Katja Kölle.
Support from the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Assembly Government and National Lottery have helped make it all happen.
This summer, artists of The Welsh Group and the Düsseldorf BBK come together to present three shows with a glossy trilingual catalogue designed by Sue Hiley Harris.
The project was launched by David Alston of the Arts Council of Wales, at Rhondda Heritage Park and Agii Gosse’ portrait of Beuys can be seen here, together with South Walian Mike Organ’s blue ceramic Landscape Kettle, Irmgard Kramer’s abstract landscape Catania1, Angelika Stienecke’s Sleepwalker, painted in tar and paint, and Wales’ Sue Roberts’ tiny plump Venus figures, juxtaposed with the negative-positive plaster objects of Gabi Fekete of Duisburg.
She has made outdoor monumental sculpture in the Lower Rhine area lamenting the humanitarian horrors of war, strongly influenced by Beuys.
The breathtaking show at Mid Wales Arts Centre, Caersws takes place throughout this month.
See the display of more than 100 works by 64 Welsh and German practitioners with monumental sculpture by Dilys Jackson (Cardiff) and Wendy Earle from Llandysul.
Work ranges from exquisite delicate woven sculpture by Sue Hiley Harris and tiny graphics and painting (Martina Justus, Heather Eastes, Vera Herzogenrath, Lorna Edmiston, Jacqueline Alkema, Agelika Stienecke, Helga Weidenmüller) to powerful figurative image-making by Gus Payne (Wales) and Mariele Koschmieder (Düsseldorf) and landscape by Jutta Gerhold, Veronica Gibson and RobertMacdonald – a major feat of hanging by director Cathy Knapp.
A selection of all this work will travel to Gas Gallery, in Aberystwyth – the third and final venue in Wales – next month.
Mariele Koschmieder’s sister looked wistfully at the tiny enamel pins given out at Mid Wales Arts Centre. They depicted crossed Welsh and German flags.
“Imagine 100 years ago today,” she said. “This could not have happened.”
Edited by Karen Price.
Originally published in The Western Mail, 4th June 2014.
Rhondda Heritage Park level 1 Gallery
15.05.14 - 22.06.14
Mid Wales Arts Centre
01.06.14 - 29.07.14
Gas Gallery, Aberystwyth
03.07.14 - 29.07.14
QQTec e.V., Hilden, Düsseldorf
21.06.15 - 05.07.15
BBK Kunstforum, Düsseldorf
18.06.15 - 12.07.15
Catalogue available HERE.
Click HERE for German launch opening speech translation
Click HERE for photographs from Germany
Click HERE for BBK Kunstforum, Düsseldorf exhibition layout