Looking at the Human Condition

pencil sketch for confessions a painting by Kathryn SassallTip-toeing into a darkened gallery. Lit by a total wall screening of an imaginary cityscape. Lit as if it’s approaching midnight, you had to be careful not to trip over people sitting or lying on the floor. Welsh artist, Bedwyr Williams, projection “Tyrrau Mawr” drew visitors in to be in the moment, sit and watch time go by, literally. Observers of the human condition.

Artes Mundi 7 at the National Museum Cardiff was an exhibition of the work of six artists – described as ground-breaking. Their work exploring social issues relating to “The Human Condition”  was the result of three curators looking at over 800 nominations. The exhibition finished 26th February 2017. This is the largest art prize in the UK.

Video Presentations

The use of video and performance is prevalent in contemporary art prizes. It’s a discipline I don’t have the technical knowledge for. I don’t know how I’d include it in my own art practice at this time. It’s a great medium for capturing the human condition though.  It reaches the three sensory areas at once, kinetic, visual and audible pictures.  Although from what I saw on the two different visits I made visitors did not appear to be keen to sit and watch TV or monitor screens. That  must be disappointing for the artist and curators.

Tyrrau Mawy (Big Towers) had the opposite effect. Visitors were cocooned, and happy to linger. Small changes in the imagined city-scape which was projected across the huge back wall, had families playing spot the changes as lights went on and off in buildings. Was it voyeurism in a communal environment?  I left when the sun came up.


Another work, more interactive, Neil Beloufa invited people to play a game – called “World Domination”.  Created in 2015 before Brexit and the US presidential elections, this work satirised world politics and global conflict. Visitors seemed to walk through this room without really absorbing much, as it seemed like the streaming of a news channel.  Perhaps that is just a reflection of my own views? On much of the TV media we seem to get which has just become repeating pattern wallpaper.

Unbelievable that the Lebanese wars have taken place over so much of my life-time, the work of Lamia Joreige, “Under-writing Beirut”  was poignant, touching and showed the real effect of the conflict on the city and it’s people.


It’s interesting to visit exhibitions that are outside of my artistic comfort zone. I like to read the blurb, and engage stewards that are there in conversation, to try to expand my knowledge. It was difficult to warm up to much of the work on show. I think this was more about some of the work feeling lost in the spaces rather than the often challenging content. Hence my second visit to see if more visitors and interaction would give me a different perspective.

It has encouraged my thinking though, and made me consider some of the human condition challenges that my family, friends and me were facing at the beginning of 2016. This has heavily influenced several of the paintings that I am creating which will have their first showing at a group exhibition under the theme of ‘Light’.

My Human Condition Images:

The drawing at the top of this blog is a sketch idea for a painting, “Confession” by Kathryn Sassall, relating to a moment in a meeting with the Memory Clinic attended with her mother during 2016. It will feature in another blog soon.

The drawing “Outside Myself” is one of a series of a Danish life model. This was completed whilst the referendum on Europe was taking place. A time of uncertainty.