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​​​​​​​Art’s take on old machinery puts a new spin on recycling

Washing machine art by Kathryn Ashill

A Swansea gallery is shining a spotlight on some items not normally considered art – unwanted old household appliances.

Any Old Iron is a new installation by Swansea-born artist Kathryn Ashill; it helps the city continue to tell the story of climate change in a creative way.

It features creative interpretations of artefacts such as used tyres, an old washing machine and an unwanted old radio. There are black bags and disused springs.

It’s helping to show visitors to Swansea Council’s Glynn Vivian gallery how art can respond to the climate emergency.

Kathryn’s work – in wood, paint and with an audio element – is part of the city centre venue’s gludafael / holdfast exhibition. The show highlights eight artists who were first brought together through the 2022 Future Wales Fellowship, developed by Natural Resources Wales and the Arts Council of Wales.

Any Old Iron is presented in a style that’s typical of an amateur dramatics set. It features a new folk song by Kathryn.

Council cabinet member Elliott King said: “As we continue our work to be a net zero organisation by 2030 – and as we lead the city in going net zero by 2050 – it’s important that the climate crisis story is told creatively; this exhibition does just that.

“The work by Kathryn and fellow artists is a thought-provoking commentary on the systems that organise us and the world.”

Kathryn Ashill said: “We’re all involved in recycling these days. However, it’s not a new phenomenon; in years gone by our neighbourhoods had weekly visits by the very visible and audible rag and bone man.

“He’d shout ‘any old iron’ then collect and take our scrap for re-use. The concept goes back even further, to much earlier times.

“I hope Glynn Vivian visitors will be able to use my new work to consider some of the key questions about class, blame and whose voice is heard in the chorus of people working in climate justice.”

gludafael / holdfast has just opened and is due to run at the Glynn Vivian until March 10.

As well as Kathryn’s work, it features exhibits by Angela Davies, Kirsti Davies, Dylan Huw, Durre Shahwar, Rhys Slade-Jones, Fern Thomas and Heledd Wyn.

Their brief is to navigate art’s capacity to respond to the climate emergency.

The exhibition has been commissioned by Natural Resources Wales, supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Glynn Vivian, and developed with curator Louise Hobson.

The free entry Glynn Vivian is open Tuesday-Sunday 10 am-4.30 pm.