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Undo Things Done: Wales in Venice artist Sean Edwards opens next month at Bluecoat

This winter, Bluecoat brings 2020 Turner Bursary artist Sean Edwards’ Wales in Venice solo show Undo Things Done to Liverpool. The artist’s internationally acclaimed presentation for Wales at the 2019 Venice Biennale was a poetic enquiry into place, politics and class, intertwined with personal histories.

As the show tours and evolves, Sean Edwards (b. Cardiff 1980) has extended the exhibition with new work and here at Bluecoat has invited Cardiff-based artist and writer Sadia Pineda Hameed (b. London 1995) to make a solo show alongside Undo Things Done. Pineda Hameed shares Edwards’ interest in what we expect and what we inherit.

Known for his sculptural approach to the everyday, Edwards often begins with seemingly unrelated elements linked by autobiographical and cultural connections. These range from the 1970s shopping centre near the housing estate where he grew up, to Springsteen’s album Nebraska, a Welsh quilting group, snooker, tabloid newspapers, and various found materials. Through investigative processes including time spent in local archives, museums and libraries, he gathers together images, stories, quotes, and clips. It is in the teasing out of these things in the studio, in isolating, abstracting, and bringing them together, that their political and formal resonance comes into play.

Undo Things Done – ‘evoking a way of living familiar to a great many people’

Undo Things Done takes as its starting point Edwards’ experience of growing up on a council estate in Cardiff in the 1980s, capturing and translating what he calls a condition of ‘not expecting much’ into a shared visual language; one that evokes a way of living familiar to a great number of people.

At Bluecoat, Edwards will create a further iteration of Undo Things Done spanning two of the largest gallery spaces. The exhibition will feature key artworks exhibited in Venice including the ‘Confessional Screen’ sculptures and his own version of Welsh wholecloth quilts, alongside a new work for the exterior of the Bluecoat building and a re-edited version of his radio play Refrain.

Refrain, co-produced by National Theatre Wales, was written for the artist’s mother Lily Edwards and streamed live from her flat in Cardiff to the venue in Venice every day of the Biennale. Refrain weaves Lily Edwards’ biography, growing up in a Northern Irish Catholic Children’s Home and her subsequent life in Wales, with found materials and Sean Edwards’ memories from childhood. The work was subsequently broadcast in a new version by BBC Radio 4 December 2019.

The artist will also show a significant older work, the silent film Maelfa (2011) set in the Llanedeyrn estate on the outskirts of Cardiff were Edwards grew up. The estate was built in 1970s to provide a complete environment for its inhabitants including the Maelfa shopping centre, police station, pub and library. It was both utopian in its civic aspirations but socially divisive by containing an entire community in one place. Depicting the partly derelict Maelfa centre in 2010, this silent film captures the sense of poignancy associated with disappearing communities and is, in many ways, the origin of Undo Things Done.

Showing alongside Edwards is Cardiff based artist, writer and independent curator Sadia Pineda Hameed (b. London 1995). Pineda Hameed was invited to show alongside Undo Things Done by Sean Edwards. Both artists address ideas of inheritance in their work, particularly the stories that are passed down within families, especially from mothers, and the childhood memories and experiences that shape the present. 

Pineda Hameed works in film, installation, text and performance to explore collective and inherited trauma. She is interested in the ways that dreaming, telepathic communion and the passing on of secrets might act as forms of resistance and as anti-colonial strategies. 

Her most recently exhibited film, tiny bubbles in the wine (2019) is an evocative collaged film that relays the artist’s mother’s previously untold experiences of migrating from the Philippines to the UK. Pineda Hameed playfully creates intuitive links between a mother’s story, Filipino traditions of oral history and Filipino artist David Medalla’s kinetic sculpture Cloud Canyons

At Bluecoat, Pineda Hameed presents The Song of My Life (2020), a new video that also focuses on matrilineal storytelling. The video knowingly parodies a popular karaoke style video with the text appearing as lyrics for a duet. One part will be voiced by the artist while the other voice will be absent. The Song of My Life follows many of the same themes of tiny bubbles. These include the difficulty of telling stories about familial trauma as well as how collectivised experiences and memories pass spoken and unspoken between parent and child or here between mother and daughter.