Artist residency @JHAFC

Points of departure….

I have been wandering in the desolate, beautiful places of the surrounding landscape absorbing much from these places as well as from the local history, mainly from conversations with people who know the place and the landscapes intimately. I have been fortunate to have had three such walking companions. A chance meeting with an amateur archaeologist greatly influenced the course of my work. My responses to my research and explorations have been mainly through drawings, installations and photographs.

One of my points of departure was recognising how much Josef Herman experienced in the landscapes around Ystradgynlais. Not something he painted so much as experienced and wrote about.

In Notes from a Welsh Diary, Josef Herman writes “The River Tawe below, Craig-y-Farteg above, in between the ground of daily life. Between walking and sleeping life like anywhere else, but nowhere else such a dreaming place…. One sleepless night I recalled how much I liked walking in the woods outside Warsaw. There I often felt that having a soul and a mind I needed little else. In the years of perfecting the painter’s craft I lost that wonderful feeling, Now it is back”

Josef Herman recalls “… walking with Llew all the way from Ystradgynlais, we talked of the strange attraction of isolated places: …’You had to know him ( Llew) more intimately to share his knowledge of Wales and the things specifically Welsh”

I have been struck by the palpable presence in the landscape and the great sense of deep time, reflected in the local archaeology as in the Coal tree.

The work shown include slate drawings, museum cabinets of archaeological items, photographs and prints and five of Josef Herman’s tree paintings.

The Coal tree is a large installation in the landscape, photographic documentation of this is shown in the exhibition


The Coal-Tree

The Coal-Tree stood on a hill in Cwmgiedd, a village close to Ystradgynlais and was the central piece of work from Sarah’s artist residency in partnership with The Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru.

It was an ancient oak birthing coal.

On Saturday May 16th there was a public gathering of people and walk to the Coal tree. We  heard poetry in both Welsh and English both ancient and contemporary, Welsh folk music was played, violin music that has passed down the ages to us through the Welsh gypsies and to enjoy tea and cake around the tree.

A homage to the tree, coal and time.

Many thanks to everyone who participated and especially David Greenslade, poet and Dan Morris, musician.



Coal Tree, Cwmgiedd

Photo credit & ©  Sarah Rhys. 2015


Dan with coal tree.

Coal Tree event

Photo credit F. Menger ©  Sarah Rhys. 2015


The exhibition was on until Thursday June 18th 2015

The work shown included slate drawings, museum cabinets of archaeological items, photographs and prints and five of Josef Herman’s tree paintings.


Palleg Unearthed

‘Palleg Unearthed’ . Installation and archival pigment print. 50 x 70 cm.

Photo credit & ©  Sarah Rhys. 2015



‘Ritual Archaeology’ . Archival pigment print 50 x 70 cm .

Photo credit & ©  Sarah Rhys. 2015


See News about making of the Coal tree




An inital synopsis…

“Since January 2014, I have been developing connections and a residency project in partnership with The Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru (JHAFC), which will explore Ystradgynlais and the surrounding area, in terms of the relationships between humans and the landscape, a theme that ran strongly through Josef Herman’s work, and the notions of dislocation, place, belonging and ‘hiraeth’.

This project has been inspired by Herman’s experience as an émigré Polish Jew and the home that he found in Ystradgynlais.

I shall be deep mapping, exploring mountains and mines, histories and myths, creating interventions and investigating  coal as both matter and symbolic object.”

The project will also be the first artist residency that will draw on and look to feed into the JHAFC’s newly formed digital community archive which is part of The Tate’s Archives and Access Project.

The project will result in the production and exhibition of new work and documentation. It will also seek to cultivate links with new and existing project partners with a view to developing a more substantial second project that would foster further meaningful connections with the people and the place of Ystradgynlais as well as further afield with a touring exhibition.”


I was awarded an  Arts Council Wales research and development grant for this residency

It wran from February to May 2015.

Mission Gallery, Swansea offered me a 3 day mini residency in April which was a great platform to have, Angela Maddock, the gallery director,  invited several interesting and relevant artists to come and see me there.

 November 2014

During  November, whilst still developing the residency project , I was invited by Mission Gallery to do an event for CIVIC @ Cardiff Contemporary  in collaboration Sarah Pace (curator). This was in partnership with the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru and Cardiff Community Housing Association.The event was called Narrative and Place and involved a walk, talk and film screening looking at the links between Josef Herman, David Martin and both Tiger Bay the book and Tiger Bay the film.We also showed Gwyn Thomas’s documentary of Butetown made in 1960’s. The free film screening was at CMC@Loudon Square, Cardiff.  Various people were invited to come along and contribute with their memories and stories.