The last coal miners of South Wales emerge from a drift mine in the Upper Swansea Valley. Hilary Powell documents these working men and the landscape and culture that surrounds them. Farewell Rock is the band of sandstone that lies below the coal measures. Once reached it signals ‘a farewell to riches’ and the end of coal – fitting as the last open cast mines in the region are mothballed and the colliery faces an uncertain future.
The work was produced through the Josef Herman Foundation Cymru Print Residency at The Curwen Studio. Josef Herman was a Polish emigrant who settled in and portrayed the mining town of Ystradgynlais in the 1950s. His ‘Notes from a Welsh Diary’ became a starting point to examine the very different contemporary landscape of industrial decline and recovery. When a miner is injured the presence of coal dust in the wound creates blue scars. They call it ‘being mapped.’ These portraits are also maps – layered coal faces produced through the processes of stone and offset lithography and printed using coal dust – an apt method for a project built on how a carboniferous collision of geology continues to form and scar a land and people.
The project launched at The Welfare, Ystradgynlais July 2016 and is now touring. A film about the project screens alongside the touring exhibition.
Recent exhibitions include National Original Print Exhibition. 2016, Swansea College of Art, Oriel y Bont, University of South Wale, Ffotogallery’s Diffusion 2017. Boundary Art and public realm at Merchant Place, Andrew Lamont Gallery, Brecon.
Upcoming include National Waterfront Museum, Swansea, Big Pit National Coal Museum. National Museum of Wales.