Jonathan Anderson exhibits coal black humour with sculpture show at Oriel Davies

By Mark Sheerin | 04 May 2011
A colour photo of a £1 banknote with a circular blot of coal dust
Jonathan Anderson, Coal Dust Mandala (2010)© the artist. All rights reserved
Exhibition: Aggregates – Jonathan Anderson, Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown, Powys, until July 6 2011

If juxtaposition is a surrealist trick, then Jonathan Anderson is a conjuror to watch. A current show in mid-Wales brings together local coal dust with iconography from the far Eastern practice of Zen Buddhism.

Blending such an earthy material with esoteric philosophies such as wabi sabi (which in rough translation means transience) is a daily ritual for the Swansea-based artist, as a wall covered with black-stained, plywood mandalas demonstrates.

But as the colour of coal suggests, Anderson is drawn to the nihilistic rather than new age side of Buddhism. Carriage clocks filled with concrete and bricks with handles also figure here as bleak comments on both the 9 to 5 and the mortgage.

Such dark humour is compared in the exhibition notes with Belgian prankster Francis Alÿs and Welsh stand-up artist Bedwyr Williams. Incidentally, Anderson’s own strain of dourness may stem from his origins in the North-East of Scotland.

Aggregates comes off the back of a win last year in the 2010 Richard and Rosemary Wakelin Purchase Award. Three of the artist’s works are now in the permanent collection of another major Welsh gallery, Glynn Vivian in the artist’s hometown.

Prize-selector Meg Anthony, from Carmarthen’s Myrddin Gallery, said his work was "both poetic and profoundly moving". So those are two more qualities which Anderson has brought together.

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