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Swansea gallery goes online to bring art world together

A Swansea gallery has gone online to bring together artists, cultural historians, museum professionals and academics from around the world.

The city centre Glynn Vivian Art Gallery is running an online seminar series that has attracted global attention.

Facing, by NS Harsha, 2018 – an installation view from the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery. Photo: Polly Thomas.

As well as bringing experts together digitally the programme aims to highlight and strengthen the cultural bond between Wales and the Indian subcontinent.

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “At this challenging time it’s important for Swansea to maintain its connections; this initiative is proving to be an excellent way of doing this.

“People are embracing digital platforms more than ever so this Glynn Vivian scheme is allowing many to experience events that they may not have done so before.

“It’s opening up new ways of working for the gallery and it shows that its staff, like all council personnel, are here for Swansea.”

The seminar series – full title Imperial Subjects: (Post)colonial conversations between South Asia and Wales – is led by British Art Network bursary recipient Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and South Asian art historian Dr Zehra Jumabhoy, currently an associate lecturer at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art.

It was originally due to be hosted at the gallery in April and this May but the team there worked hard to reschedule the seminars in a digital format via video conferencing service Zoom.

Gallery curator Karen MacKinnon said: “This means that a lot more people can access the programme from right around the world.

“We sold out on the initial places for each seminar after Tate, which jointly leads the British Art Network with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, publicised the programme.

“We’ve now added more tickets to each of the programme’s events.

“They take place in the afternoon so that people from all over the US, Asia and the UK can join. We’re looking forward to reaching people that would never have been able to visit Swansea.”

South Asia and Wales have had a long cultural liaison and the seminars trace some historic interactions between the two while also forging new ones. The series includes artists, academics, curators and local historians in the line-up of speakers.

The four seminars, covering a range of topics, are: Exploring Colonial Conversations (May 12), Miniatures and The West (May 14), The Robert Clive Collections and Gifts Re-Examined (May 19), Cultural Interactions (May 21).

This year, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery is one of three museums in the UK – and the only cultural institution in Wales, to have received a substantial British Art Network grant to work with Dr Jumabhoy.

The award was the result of a successful Glynn Vivian project two years ago with arts initiative Artes Mundi. This included a site-specific survey show with the well-known Indian artist NS Harsha. The Imperial Subjects seminar series is being held in the lead-up to a major exhibition at the gallery, featuring Welsh and South Asian artists. It’s scheduled for 2022.

Dr Jumabhoy said: “The Imperial Subjects series is just the start of an exciting exploration of the historic and contemporary connections between Wales and South Asia.

“I’m hugely grateful to my collaborators Katy Freer and Charlotte Thomas, of the Glynn Vivian, as well as Professor Daniel G Williams, of Swansea University. They have kept faith despite these very challenging circumstances.

“What we’ve unearthed so far is the incredibly rich – and unfairly overlooked – relationship between the two regions.

“We can’t wait to share our discoveries on Zoom. And, best of all, this is just the launch of our journey: in 2022, we’re planning an exhibition and conference that delves deep into this cross-cultural exchange. Keep your eyes peeled for Glynn Vivian’s next announcements!”

Dr Martin Postle, deputy director of the Paul Mellon Centre and convenor of the British Art Network, said: “This is an exemplary initiative by the curatorial staff of the Glynn Vivian and for this they should be heartily congratulated.

“During this challenging time the gallery has played a key role within the British Art Network and beyond, demonstrating how to use virtual seminars to cross local and national boundaries, communicating and sharing ideas and agendas on significant issues relating to global art and culture.”

For more #AtHome ideas, activities and information from the Swansea Council Cultural Services team take a look at www.enjoyswanseabay.com.