Vetch Veg An Urban Utopia

Owen Griffiths

July 18, 2012 / by owen

Artist Statement

I am a Swansea-based artist and curator. A graduate of Fine Art at Oxford Brookes University, my practice is centred around working with communities and fellow artists on collaborative projects. Concerned with environmental and social issues, my practice also explores the significance of food and cooking as a universal experience, creating a new participatory arena for work. I am a founder member of a number of artists groups and networks, Framework 2005-9, Opus, Supersaurus 2011 and Arts Birthday Wales.

I’m interested in all aspects and details of collaboration and contemporary cultural shifts, as acts and antidotes to financial, social and environmental challenges. In my practice I’ve been exploring ideas around collaboration, social and political challenges through documentation, installation and the event as an act.

Since graduating I have been developing a practice which has emerged through working with people and organisations. Diverse activities such as cooking and community work with refugees and asylum seekers slowly began to merge with my concerns and output as an artist. Traditional studio based practice became less important in favour of a more relational and event based focus, seeing my role as an onlooker or as a coordinator. I have always been part of a collective in some form, finding a great strength in community, shared values and discussion, whilst firm in my own sense of aesthetics. I am fascinated in the idea of art and artists as provocateurs, re-imagining the everyday and creativity, in all forms, as a visioning and healing act.

In 2011 I was commissioned by, Adain Avion, Cultural Olympiad Wales, to develop a major work responding to the idea of working with the community, the city of Swansea and the Olympics. The work has involved transforming a derelict, city centre football stadium into a vegetable garden. Vetch Veg is an interdisciplinary project, part sculpture, part centre, part eco system and resource. Unlocking unused land, owned by local authority and earmarked for unimaginative development, I was interested in the notion of the artwork as the catalyst and the artist as communicator between government and society. Inviting the local authority to trust the public, engaging them as active participants rather than witnesses of the changing landscape of their city. Vetch Veg will run for one year until September 2012, after which the community will run the project. Its activities will include filmmaking, lectures, gigs, sculptures, discussion, and events.

I have been working collaboratively with fellow artist Fern Thomas over the past 5 years on projects and residencies in Mexico, Germany and China. In 2010 we created a participatory project For the Bees, where we worked with musician, Mial Watkins, to create a piece of choral music for a choir of people to sing to two beehives in an act of concern and meditation about the plight of the bees. It was shortlisted for Amateur Scientist of the Year on BBC Radio 4 and was supported by the Cooperative, International year of Biodiversity and the National Conference of Entomology.

Most recently I have been working on a new works in response to series of visits to China. Lets See What Happens… was originated by Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, curated by Karen MacKinnon. This project, supported by British Council, is a dialogue between four artists based in Wales and two Chinese artists, based on a series of conversations and exchanges between the two countries. This series of works, currently in development, are focussed around the Xiamen Tea Emporium and meetings with everyday people across these cities over cups of tea. These works are an investigation into the dialogue with both cities and their people, and form the foundation or platform for more time based and temporary interventions and events in markets in Xiamen and Swansea, which will be developed over 2013-14.

Thomas and myself and Karen MacKinnon are currently starting work on a project called Futures which will culminate in a major show at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery. The focus of the project is to develop a slow series of conversations by setting up pen pal relationships between artists, environmentalists and economists with organisations and artists in Wales, as a visioning and consolatory act which will help frame the larger exhibition, which is due to happen in 2015/16.

Owen Griffiths Websites

Owen Griffiths Website (About Reconnection)
Vetch Veg on Tumblr
For the Bees
Forever Academy
Studio Supersaurus (Tumblr)

Owen Griffiths Contact

+44 (0) 7411211036