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Rhyddings House, Brynmill

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Rhyddings House, Brynmill

This is a strange rather ugly building. It’s pebble-dashed exterior is tinged grey with neglect. The front garden is unkempt and there’s a red boat in the far corner of the garden. I noticed this building ages ago and was intrigued by it. Why didn’t it look like the houses around it? It reminded me of a block of flats and it seemed out of place amongst the tight terraces.

 

I have discovered recently that it is, in fact, an old mansion house, originally built in the mid 18th century. If you walk around the back of the building it looks less like an ugly tenement as through a stone archway there is smaller stone building attached called “the cottage”.

Rhyddings House
Rear of Rhydding House with the “Cottage”

 

 

Further research reveals that when it was built in the mid-18th century, it was one of few big houses to the west of Swansea. It had 8 generously sized bedrooms, an orchard, walled garden, and farmland. The surrounding areas would have been hay fields, dotted with patches of trees.  It was located far away from the smoking chimneys of the industrial areas along the River Tawe. It had views of the burrows (sand dunes) at the bottom of the hill to the south and, weather permitting, across the bay to the distant shores of Devon. From 1837 onwards, you would have been able to see the new Brynmill Reservoir to the north-west. This lake later became the heart of Brynmill Park.

The name of Rhyddings is a bit of a mystery. I asked my Welsh-speaking facebook friend, Rhydian, his opinion on why “Rhyddings” is pronounced locally with a hard “d” sound instead of with a soft “f” sound. He said,  “short answer is that I don’t know. The word ‘Rhydd’ is Welsh for ‘Free’ but I’m not sure whether there’s any connection there to be honest because the word Rhydding isn’t used today if it was ever a word, and -ing isn’t a common suffix in Welsh.With regards to the pronunciation, it probably is being mispronounced technically but since it’s not, as far as I’m aware, an actual word then I don’t feel it matters.”

The house had many tenants over the years. Thomas Bowdler , was its most notable resident. He was an English doctor of medicine, philanthropist, and man of letters. He lived here in 1818, whilst he was carefully deleting all the unsuitable parts from the plays of Shakespeare ‘which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family’ to make them suitable for women and children to read:- this was his “The Family Shakespeare”. He died in 1825 at the age of 70 and was buried in nearby Oystermouth.  He left money to the poor of Swansea and his home parish of Box, in Somerset. Although the bulk of his large library was donated to the University of Wales, Lampeter, the remainder of his library and print collection were put up for sale along with his furniture.

The house was subject to a series of misfortune, not least of which was being struck by lightning during an autumn thunderstorm of 1831 and being bombed during the Second World War. Relations with the local community weren’t always easy – different tenants prosecuted local children for minor “crimes” on a more than one occasion. Once for a 12-year-old was prosecuted for “scrumping” (pinching apples) and a 14-year old for picking flowers. In 1873 a public right of way through the near-by Rhyddings Fields were closed off and this provoked an anonymous letter from the fictional  “Twm Sion Catti” (a Welsh version of Robin Hood) demanding to know who had done this. A later tenant, the Dutch South African farmer Richard White Beor, became a Justice of the Peace and no doubt helped keep law and order in this rural area.

The last decade of the 19th century saw the start of the terraces being built. In the 1880s Swansea was growing rapidly. Middle-class suburbs were spreading west. St Helen’s Avenue and King Edward’s Road had been built and houses were starting to climb up Rhyddings Park Road and Finsbury Terrace. By the start of the First World War, the farmland and the orchard was a dim and distant memory.

 

Map of Brynmill
Brynmill, Swansea

 

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My Summer Art Exhibition in Swansea.

Art Exhibition in Brynmill Swansea

My exhibition of Gower seascapes and scenes from life in Brynmill, Swansea. 

There were some last minute discussions about what should be included. A late addition quickly had “D'” hooks and string attached this morning. The bubble wrap was rolled out and the paintings were carefully rolled into several parcels for the very brief car journey to the venue, Brynmill Coffee House, Langland Terrace, Swansea. When we arrived, the paintings were swiftly arranged around the room. One painting was almost left out, but some rearrangement of paintings and the arrival of an extra hook meant everyone made onto the walls. No one was carried back home. Photos were taken of my husband, Seamas, putting up the paintings, the final arrangement of pictures and then me with the paintings.

It’s great to see my work up on some else’s walls. The dark blue on the cafe walls really complements the paintings well. I can reflect on the themes I have followed over the course of the last 6 months. Whether its a determined shopper at the once-monthly Uplands Market, families outside Singleton Park or the waves on Gower beaches, it’s always about colour and light for me. I can see similar tones of blues and greens that I favour; royal blue, and yellow ochres in particular. It’s satisfying to think these paintings “belong” together. I think cafes and restaurants are a great place to exhibit paintings. White-walled galleries can be so intimidating. They really should have lots of sofas for people to sit on too.  In a cafe or restaurant, people can take their time to look at the artwork on the walls in a relaxed environment.  I hope that my art will bring people pleasure.  I hope that by recognising places they know well, like the cafe they are sitting, in an oil painting, it will give them a small thrill. A shock of recognition. I think oil paintings have the power “elevate” quite ordinary things.

So now my exhibition is up and ready to be visited during the month of August.  Pop by and enter the draw for the print of Brynmill Coffee House, worth £45, all proceeds will go the Swansea charity supported by Brynmill Coffee House.

 

 

© Emma Cownie 2017

 

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Troublemakers’ Festival Swansea 2017

 

 

I wish it could go on for another day…..

We visited the #Troublemakers’ Festival at High Street Swansea yesterday afternoon. The unrelenting drizzle did not damped the smiles and the good humour of the volunteers.  Indoors at Volcano there was plenty of protest-poster making, poetry, song and cake. Upstairs at the Elysium Galleries local artists gave tours of their work places. We marvelled at the order of Eifion Sven-Mayer’s space (as well as his talent as an artist) and he was very generous with his time, as was Tansy Rees and Konstantinos Grigoriades. There are many, many very talented people in Swansea.

 

Sunday, it was a lot drier, thankfully. I spent the morning volunteering at the “Unfair Funfair” – a Swansea Oxfam initiative to highlight the benefits of Fair Trade. I loved the way how the children pitched right in and played, despite the fact that they realised quite soon on that all the games were fixed and they could not “win” any of them!!! Happily there were no complaints and some chocolate and stickers distributed. I enjoyed the festival as a visitor yesterday, but it was much more fun as a volunteer, as I got to interact with so many more people; the toddlers who keen to try to knock over the cans on “Tin Can’t Alley”, the teenagers who had come to use the skate board ramps and the adults, some passing on their way to train station, others who had come for the art and theatre.  Mark Stephenson’s #Tag my ride was another popular attraction. Looking forward to #TroubleMakers’ 2018!

 

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Fish and Chips in the Uplands

Painting of Nightime Urban scene.
Night Jacks (SOLD)

 

Delighted to have Sold this classic “urban folk” painting “Night Jacks” to a collector in Utah in the US via Artfinder !

“The title of this expressionist “urban folk” painting takes it’s title from Hopper’s “Night Hawks” – I have “Britishized” Hopper’s painting which was set in an American diner by using a British alternative or even equivalent the ever present Fish and Chip shop instead as it seemed appropriate. The second part of the title, Jacks, refers to a name we have here in Swansea for people who come from Swansea.”

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Passive Smoking

Oil painting of people in Swansea town centre
Passive Smoking

This, like a number of my recent and forthcoming works, will not be available to buy for the foreseeable future as they will be exhibited first but I am posting details of them to keep collectors and artlovers up to date with my recent work, inspirations, and directions.

This painting is a new painting is heavily influenced by North American artists in its colouring and in its subject matter, namely the frisson that comes from human interaction, in the most apparently mundane settings.
I loved this scene, as the man seems ill at ease and not sure whether to leave or remain. He may even feel guilty that he is kinda in ear shot of the couple’s conversation and may appear to be eavesdropping. He was there first and then the couple joined him, to eagerly gossip and have a quick cigarette break. They seem so comfortable in each other’s company compared to the man who seems very ill at ease, aggrieved at having to endure their smoking and the drifting grey-white fumes.

Buy here

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The Time In Between

 

Oil painting of woman waiting for the bus.
Time in Between – SOLD

The title refers to the time before one activity, after another activity has ceased. A limbo period filled with change checking in her purse, as she waits for her bus to arrive.

The composition is, as with many of my works, influenced the diagonal compositions as used by Henri Carter Bresson. The colouring is influenced by American artists such as Hopper and Eric Bowman. I have deliberately tried to imbue this portrait with pathos, elevating a mundane act into something semi sacred, as the light is Cathedral-like as it shines through the high glass panels of Swansea Bus Station onto her chunky cable knit cardigan.

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A Certain Something

Contemporary oil painting of Swansea man
A Certain Something – SOLD

 

A hot summer day on Oxford Street Swansea finds this old dude, sharply dressed for the summer heat.
The title again has two meanings – the man has bought a certain something for a precious loved one or he has a certain something as in presence or charisma, something not easily defined.

This is a signature type of painting for me – painting people walking around in their everyday lives. Painting moods, anticipations and atmospheres. Creating presence and pathos.

“Emma’s paintings paintings are lively and capture the fleeting moments of day and night in the Swansea streets. A very strong visual impact is derived from bold blocks of colours and an expressive palette that is widely used in modern art and pop art. The cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark in her artworks, particularly in those night scenes where I observe some tranquility and alienation in a busy city, almost draw a subtle connection to the pieces of Edward Hopper.

I particularly like the figurative works which I think capture the everyday nuances of normal people going about their daily life”

Rise Art – Insiders Review

 

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Still Time

 

Oil painting of elderly Swansea man
Still Time – SOLD

Delighted to have Sold “Still Life” via Artfinder a day after adding to my store! Going to the USA! ‪#‎artfinder‬ ‪#‎swansea‬

“A jaunty elderly man, all dressed and booted on his way to the shops in Uplands, Swansea.
I loved his cheerful sense of purpose and his 1970s sunglasses, that slightly look at odds with the rest of his clothing.
The title of the painting has a double meaning as in still time to get to the shop and a moment of time frozen in time, made still. Still time.

 

This is a signature type of painting for me – painting people walking around in their everyday lives. Painting moods, anticipations and atmospheres. Creating presence and pathos.

“Emma’s paintings are lively and capture the fleeting moments of day and night in the Swansea streets. A very strong visual impact is derived from bold blocks of colours and an expressive palette that is widely used in modern art and pop art. The cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark in her artworks, particularly in those night scenes where I observe some tranquility and alienation in a busy city, almost draw a subtle connection to the pieces of Edward Hopper.

I particularly like the figurative works which I think capture the everyday nuances of normal people going about their daily life”

Rise Art – Insiders Review

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Rise Art

Just received a very positive and instructive feedback from some Insiders at Rise Art – concentrate more on these figurative people paintings seems to the main point!

Happed Up

“Emma’s paintings paintings are lively and capture the fleeting moments of day and night in the Swansea streets. A very strong visual impact is derived from bold blocks of colours and an expressive palette that is widely used in modern art and pop art. The cinematic compositions and dramatic use of light and dark in her artworks, particularly in those night scenes where I observe some tranquility and alienation in a busy city, almost draw a subtle connection to the pieces of Edward Hopper.

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Her depiction of pedestrians and streets of Swansea in rain creates an enigmatic atmosphere which tempts the viewers for more and her ‘refractionist’ style is eye-catching. I particularly like the figurative works which I think capture the everyday nuances of normal people going about their daily life”
Rise Art – Insiders Review

 

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See more people painting for sale here

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Cross Town Traffic

New York Painting by Emma Cownie

This is the second in a series of urbanscapes in which I paint cities other than my home city of Swansea. Here we start with the first painting of a busy street in New York There will be urban cityscapes to follow of London and more of New York, among others. I love the brash, invigorating colours of New York streets, how they demand to be seen, noticed and paid attention to. The fluorescent and neon sign lights from banks of advertisements blend with a river of colour, awash in the rain soaked streets below. I love how the orange yellow taxi wheels spin up grey-green spray as they tear up the streets. How the garish orange-pinks compliment the deep greens, bible blacks and devil reds on the wet roads.

All the colours seem visually orchestrated by the elements and the street bustle in a chromatic symphony. Chaotic but in continual synchronicity.

Contemporary oil painting of New York Traffic
Cross Town Traffic (SOLD)