Tuesday, 29 December 2020

2020 Went Astray

2020 unravelled like a teaser trailer for The End of the World! 

Perhaps the comet was an omen? 

Neowise C/2020 F3 was a rare and beautiful sight in the clear night skies of Spring but it just happened to coincide with the whole world going strange and scary. 

Comet Neowise photographed by NASA's Hubble Telescope in August 2020

The planet seemed to catch on fire and huge swathes of important habitats went up in smoke across every continent. Not only was this a disaster for the wildlife that lived in those locations, the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere really fed into the same global warming cycle that had been a catalysts in the first place. The wildfires were probably the most significant global disaster, though just a small component in the current climate crisis, of course! Droughts ravaged many parts of the world as temperatures soared to record highs, whilst in other parts there was flooding of 'biblical' proportions, brought on by more storms ever named in a single year... 

Then came the Corona-virus pandemic. Enough has been said and written about that all year, so I shan't dwell upon it here. Suffice to say that it may well be a practice run for regular, and possibly more virulent, pandemics to come so it's important to learn as much as we can from this experience. Possibly the most important 'take-away' from this is that viruses don't respect your political views. There's no point protesting against a microbe! Politicians need to put people before profits and the NHS has to be better funded! Also, we witnessed a global demonstration of how, when we feel threatened, humans can become highly irrational and easily distracted. Let's change our ways and work out how to 'pull-together' next time... 

Unfortunately, the politics of the last few years have tended more and more toward division rather than unity... it's an old ploy to take power from the masses - set them squabbling over something relatively trivial, like say, Brexit. Polarize the population and then flood those debates with lies and uncertainty. If people think that facts are 'fluid', then how will they decide what to believe? It leaves them free to select anything that supports what they already believe, so they will seek out 'news' and views that simply agree with their own world view. Of course public response to non-trivial issues, such as equality and environment, can also be manipulated using this method. 

Oh, mentioned Brexit there, didn't I? Sorry. Ah, well, we are going forth with some sort of last-minute deal that, after spending more than our entire subscription to the EU since we joined in 1973, seems to be only a bit worse than what we started with. And that's better than it nearly turned out - so let's be looking for the potentials - in the hope of finding at least some tangible benefits? Thankfully, I managed to avoid mentioning Trump (another global disaster!) But I should mention BLM, which became a rallying cry for much-needed social evolution. 

2020 was a mess. Perhaps the best thing some of us can say in its favour is, "It could've been worse and at least we made it through!"

Now, there's a new year looming, a time for each to reflect and think ahead. Look back on what we have done and forward to what we can do to steer toward the future we really want. 

I chatted with Julie McNicolls Vale at Cambrian News for their maes supplement, back in August... here's the published feature about creative life in lock-down Wales, being a virtual artist in residence for the Arts Council's Lead Creative Schools online programme with Tredegar Park Primary, taking part in Plas Bodfa's international Unus Multorum 2020 online art festival, and my new epic fantasy book THIS (part four) written with Zel Cariad and concluding Book One of our This, That and The Other trilogy! 

 Click thumbnail image to read PDF

Lock-down life suited me fine. I got to spend time with my family and enjoy daily exercise together walking our dog in our local woodlands. I do realise the experience would’ve been a real challenge, and not so idyllic for many, especially those alone in an environment with limited access to natural spaces… and of course, all the NHS staff, carers, and essential support workers that have tirelessly kept our society going have been doing a difficult job very well. But for us, watching the ancient forest go through its cycle of life for a whole year was a constant comfort. It was endlessly fascinating and a privilege to be afforded the time to be on intimate terms with the flora and fauna of the ancient landscape, peaceful and left almost undisturbed by other humans. 

It gave us hope for a better, greener future after lock-down, as people realised they didn’t really need half the ‘baggage’ of the modern world to survive. Perhaps they've glimpsed the cons of capitalism? We’re still hoping that we never get back to ‘normal’ - only back to better is acceptable. 

My year in books 
- one small step for Fantasy, 
one giant leap for this Fantasy author!

Four years in the making, THIS arrived complete and published in four parts from The Red Sparrow Press. Me and my 'creative consultant', Zel Cariad had a wonderful time putting the story together, pick'n'mixing bits'n'pieces from folklore and fairy tales and bringing them right up to date into the modern imagination. I also posted a small gallery of my illustrations used on the paperback book covers, which saw the year in as part of The Folklore and Fairytales of North Wales exhibition at Oriel Ty Meirion, over winter 2019-20...

THIS is just the beginning... the first book in the trilogy, This, That and The Other

We really appreciate our readers who have been supporting us so far and helping to spread the word, and a very warm welcome to our new friends who can step into the story via the samples below and join the journey with Rietta and Carla as their friendship is tested across the three magical realms...  

As summed-up in a few reader reviews: "Bursting at the seams with magic," and, "will be enjoyed by fans of fantasy of all ages, especially those who like the classics like the Narnia saga," and, "a lovely depiction of friendship," and most recently a Red Button review that proclaimed THIS was, "imaginative fantasy at its best, wonderful work and heartily recommended..."

My year in art 
- really, 20:20 should've been great for visual arts
...and in many ways it was! 

As an author and artist, I enjoy working solo much of the time, but I was also fortunate to have several outlets for creative collaboration during isolation. 

Just before the nation went into lockdown, I was installing an epic wall drawing in Plas Bodfa, an arts centre in Angelsey, for a major arts festival involving more than 100 international artists. The pandemic was already affecting many of those artists from other countries who found themselves adapting to send their work or to present it virtually. Then, one week before the final installation and opening to the public… well, that’s when everything changed. 

Corridraw: Writing on the Floors photographed by Kim Vertue, 
Writing on the Walls stills from the film, Possibilities of a House 
produced by Culture Colony for Plas Bodfa

The instigator and curator, Julie Upmeyer, who has boundless energy and drive, refused to let things drift and instead organised a series of online and virtual events that became the Unus Multorum 2020 Online Arts Festival. This involved several live-streaming events and she also facilitated a virtual environment using Zoom and social media for the artists involved to interact and collaborate. Unus Multorum also incorporated the launch of Plas Bodfa Objects, a selection of limited edition Artist's Multiples that migrated far beyond the exhibition environment, taking the Festival across the country and beyond - via mail order. My contribution was a special edition of 10 Cicorc... 

I think that, although I didn’t meet many in person, I got to know more of my fellow artists than I would’ve at a ‘real world’ event! I’m also pretty sure that more people around the globe got to see the art who wouldn’t have been able to get there in person, even under normal circumstances. 

Two Cicorc pals, 'James W. Fisher' and  'Arkinholm', exploring Plas Bodfa 
photographed during lock-down by Julie Upmeyer

I love a good residency and also enjoy leading creative workshops in the community. Alas, such opportunities were unrealistic during a global pandemic! However, through the Lead Creative Schools programme, part of the national Creative Learning initiative helmed by the Arts Council of Wales, I did manage to deliver another virtual residency which worked out rather well, at Tredegar Park Primary School - coincidentally, situated in the grounds of my ancestral home! We all shared adventures exploring islands of the imagination. Currently, I'm working with another fantastic school, Ysgol y Foryd in North Wales, on an exciting new project that will take us into 2021, involving food, fun and story-telling - watch this space [...you can read the artist call-out for this exciting Lead Creative Schools project as a PDF HERE]

Another thing that 2020 has encouraged is greater generosity in the sharing of content online. For example, in partnership with The Red Sparrow Press, I was able to make THIS part one available as a 'FreeBook' on the Medium platform, initially during schools closure, but it ended up staying there all year... and I have enjoyed visiting many online galleries and exhibitions, so I've seen more world-class art than I would've done on the usual trips to London and Cardiff. 

I began the year with a presentation at Oriel Colwyn, The North Wales Photography Gallery, of my project, The Stars, at Our Feet. So, it's quite fitting that photographs from that series will feature as the inaugural exhibition at The Signifier's new online initiative - The Six Shot Gallery - which I will then be curating for the rest of 2021 to showcase the work of a different contemporary artist each month. 

Presenting The Stars, at Our Feet at Oriel Colwyn in pre-lock-down 2020
photograph, left, by Kim Vertue, and right, courtesy of the gallery

Aside from THIS, the fantastic new novel, my recent writing has appeared in the following online publications:

- for which I have contributed regular articles on the history of art 

- for which I contributed a piece on the marvelously misconstrued collection of Welsh mythologies known as The Mabinogion 

- for which I continue to write regularly as a film critic, often in-depth retrospectives of classics, occasionally reviews of new releases...  

Wishing you all the very best and with a very special, "Thank You!" to everyone who has been reading what I've written and appreciating the art I've made. I especially hope you are enjoying spending time in the Realms of This That and The Other... and... I'm very excited to announce that there is a publishing deal in place for the next book, so will be working on THAT, again with Zel Cariad's invaluable input, and if all goes to plan, the wait for THAT (part one) won't be too long! 


Roll-in and roll-on, 2021! 

Monday, 13 July 2020

THIS is complete!

This Part Four : This Fair Land, Wherein Dreams and Magics Meet is now published and concludes Book One of This, That and The Other.

This parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 by Remy Dean with Zel Cariad


Time is running out.

After their narrow escape from the besieged Citadel, Rietta and Carla must finally fulfill their promise to the Fair Ones. Using powerful magics stolen from the Elfyn empire, they seek to protect the Three Realms by reciting an ancient and dreadful spell...

They soon learn that things are not as they expected. As hopes of their safe return home are consumed in fire and darkness, the girls realise that there are dire consequences. Now, more than ever, they must rely on each other and the magical friends they have made on their journey.

But is everyone who they appear to be in the final, thrilling instalment of This?

This That and the Other is imaginative fantasy, on an epic scale. The story follows the special friendship between two girls who embark on a magical adventure together, across the three realms. It is a modern fable inspired by fairy tales and folklore whilst remaining relevant to today's most important issues, in the tradition of The Neverending Story, The Box of Delights, The Chronicles of Narnia

All of This is now available in paperback and e-book formats published by
  The Red Sparrow Press 

readers who are new to This can join the adventures of Rietta and Carla below

Monday, 15 June 2020

Back to Better

I am an author and artist. I am not a full-time politician or government official. I have no easy-fix solutions... but wouldn't it be lovely if the 'economy' simply collapsed and became nonviable, so we were forced to find another way of coexisting based on mutual care and respect for each other and all aspects of our natural environment?

We created money, and the resulting economy was a way of helping society run smoothly. It was there to serve us, but now it seems we are its slaves, expected to make sacrifices that risk our lives and even 'life on Earth' in order to save the unsustainable 'economy'. This makes no sound sense.

One step away from such economic slavery would be to introduce a functional guaranteed basic income, as a first step in disassembling our money-driven economy and replacing it with a creative human-driven 'green' economy. As the nations of the world consider global recovery, we all need to re-think our priorities. Now would seem an ideal time to 're-boot' and do this.

Environmental recovery is essential.

Never 'Back to Normal' 
Only 'Back to Better' is acceptable 

to build a future for all life on Earth

Monday, 1 June 2020

Unus Multorum 2020 Online Festival

Plas Bodfa, based on the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales, is hosting a series of brave and exciting arts initiatives.

Last year, I was fortunate to be selected for the inaugural 'artists takeover' under the banner of Sui Generis - an ambitious project that brought more than 60 international artists together to respond to the location that has been many things including a family home, a steakhouse, a care home, a tapestry studio with visitor centre, and is now in transition once more into a family home with attached studios and arts centre!

Participants from across Europe, Australia and the Americas all contributed some amazingly varied work and Sui Generis was listed among the Top 10 art events in Wales for 2019.

My two, linked contributions were, In Lieu (of All We Are) - a text-based installation in one of the several bathrooms, and Corridraw: Escape Route, which featured large-scale gestural writing, drawn directly onto the walls of the passageways, and brought together concepts I have been exploring in the Writing to Escape and 360 series.

This year, artist-instigator-curator Julie Upmeyer decided to do something even bigger that would involve more than 100 creatives. This 2020 event was titled Unus Multorum and followed a similar, installation-driven format, whilst integrating the launch for 'Plas Bodfa Objects' - a selection of exclusive artists' multiples.

Due to the lock-down in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the way that the art was to be revealed to the public had to be re-imagined. So, instead of an 'open-house' approach scheduled for April-May, the exhibition has morphed into an extended global arts festival with a series of virtual events including regular uploads of online galleries that showcase the work already installed and some of the work-in-progress that was intended for inclusion. There is also a programme of monthly video live-steams, each linked by a broad theme and featuring some of the artists talking about their work.

Along with Fiona Davies (joining us from Australia), Sian Hughes and duo Stanley & Bould, I was a guest for the first live-stream in May, with the theme of 'House', and here I talk about my contributions to the Unus Multorum 2020 Festival which are Corridraw: Continuum - an extension to Escape Route already near-complete when lock-down was brought in for Wales, and the Plas Bodfa edition of 10 new Cicorcs - the lucky cork sea-dogs...

click to play (my section begins at 50 minutes in this recorded live video)





Saturday, 4 April 2020

100 Film Reviews

Dario Argento's Inferno (1980) is forty years old and still seems fresh to me! So, I've written a retrospective review of what is one of my favourite horror films of all-time - which is only fitting to mark the 100th review I've penned for the online movie magazine, Frame Rated.

I can still clearly recall writing my first review for the (free to read) top-notch cinema and television review site... that was back in 2017 and it doesn't seem like nearly three years ago since I enjoyed a re-watch of John Woo's action movie game-changer, Face/Off (1997) ...fantastic fun watching Nicolas Cage and John Travolta trying to out-act each other!

I tend to write fairly in-depth, long-form reviews, usually around 2,000 words, though some are considerably longer... Which means they add up to over 200,000 words... That's equivalent to a few novel-length books! About three book's worth of writing in the time it's taken me to write... well, three books, as it happens!

(In case you didn't know - parts one, two and three of This are out now - scroll down previous posts ↓ to find out more and, during UK Schools Closure 2020, you can read part one as a Freebook on the Medium platform HERE.)

It's only when you look back on things as a writer, that you realise that every word set next to its neighbour to grow into a sentence that works with the next sentence to create mood, milieu or meaning, has almost alchemically combined to tell a story, to flow toward a conclusion, to build a body of work. Writing is certainly a kind of magic, a distillation of thoughts, memories and time...

So, perhaps, like me, you are in corona lockdown? Considering what movie to watch next? Have a scroll though my back-catalogue of film reviews at Frame Rated - there's a good range of classics, dating back to the 1920s, right up to current releases. If you love cinema, you may well enjoy them - I work quite hard at the research stage and endeavor to include info and observations you won't easily find elsewhere... Pretty much any genre you like will be at least touched upon - there are Westerns, Noir, War, Martial Arts, Mystery, Suspense, Action, Thriller, Comedy, Courtroom Drama, Historical Epic, Art-House, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror!

... and then, check-out all the other great film writing at Frame Rated... which celebrates its 5th online anniversary this year, in June.

...and here's my 100th review:
Since his directorial debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Dario Argento became known as a prominent proponent of the Italian giallo. Except for the historical satire, The Five Days (1973), his first five films and two television shorts all helped to define and consolidate this important new sub-genre. Their domestic box-office success earned him a degree of celebrity in his Italian homeland, where he also became known as a director who enjoyed challenging expectations and playing with established tropes—even those he’d established himself. But, it wasn’t until he broke away from giallo with his first full-blooded supernatural horror that he gained any substantial international traction.

On the strength of its Italian success, the US distribution rights for Suspiria (1977) were snapped-up by 20th Century Fox. They immediately ran into resistance from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), who refused it certification. It was unlike anything they’d seen before and the explicit, though artfully balletic, murder scenes were deemed gratuitously violent. Fox decided to distance themselves from it and resubmitted it through International Classics, their subsidiary company dealing with foreign and arthouse fare. After trimming eight-minutes of the more extreme gore, they were granted an R-rating and, although it wasn’t released until August, it ended up being Fox’s seventh highest-grossing release of 1977. Of course, their biggest movie that year was Star Wars!

...continue reading at Frame Rated

*  *  *

Incidentally, my latest long-read article for Folklore Thursday also published this week and you can read that HERE :

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

THIS part 3 is OUT NOW - the fantastic adventures of Rietta and Carla continue!

This month This, part three is published by The Red Sparrow Press. 
You can catch up with parts one and two in this previous post HERE...

This That and the Other is imaginative fantasy, on an epic scale. The story follows the special friendship between two girls who embark on a magical adventure together, across the three realms. It is a modern fable inspired by fairy tales and folklore, in the tradition of children's classics like The Neverending Story, The Box of Delights, The Chronicles of Narnia… and suitable for all who love magical adventures.

This, the first three installments are now available from amazon, book shops and your local library
Here is the blurb from the back cover:


The Elfyn Citadel is a place of magics and mysteries that Rietta and Carla are eager to explore.

The handsome young Prince takes a special interest in them as they begin to unlock their own magical powers using talismans, spells, wands and ancient books of stone that they alone can open. It all seems so much like a fairy tale, until the terrifying King of Bones pays a visit and the girls are coerced into hunting a unicorn.

As the Mumblebone menace grows, they discover that everyone seems to hide a secret. It becomes increasingly hard to tell friend from foe and soon the girls realise they are in far greater danger than they ever imagined.

You can preview and purchase This part three on amazon HERE
...also available as an e-book and free on Kindle Unlimited HERE

Part four is set to follow later this year and is expected to be released in both e-book and tree-book formats - watch this space... and if it is not too much to ask, do help to spread the word - you can tweet @RedSparrowPress and let them know that you enjoyed the books, and you could post a little review on amazon or on GoodReads. A really BIG "thank you" to those who have already done that! Those reviews really do help small indie publishers like The Red Sparrow and their authors, like me!

Thursday, 2 January 2020

All the very best for 2020 !

This (part 3) is now available 

2019 That Was...

...so, looking back on the year, it seemed a bit 'front-loaded', starting off with three major creative projects: YMYL-2-EDGE was already underway and bridged nicely from 2018 into 2019 with my mentoring of nine artist-makers as they innovated their practice by exploring cutting-edge tech at Pontio's fabLAB in Bangor, culminating in the exhibition and associated programme of events - you can remind yourself of all that entailed HERE...

Then there was the Lead Creative Schools Project at Rhos Street School, in Ruthin, which I helped to facilitate, mostly 'behind-the-scenes' this time as the Arts Council of Wales Creative Agent. I think it went really well and developed naturally from initial concept to final outcomes with the pupil group really taking ownership and steering it all to success with the expert guidance of our Creative Practitioner, Elfin Bow - if you want to see what I consider to be a great example of Creative Learning through the Arts watch the short video below, and if you want to know more about what the Lead Creative Schools initiative is achieving, then you can read all about it HERE...

Around the same time, I was also taking part in a major 'artists takeover' at Plas Bodfa (more on that HERE) and producing work for my solo exhibition INTER⁁VERBA as part of the BBC Get Creative Festival and incorporating a Pop-Up Museum with Storiel at Blaenau Ffestiniog Library and Oriel Maenofferen Gallery. Some of the work premiered as part of that exhibition is now featured in the selected archive of Art Projects HERE, or click on the thumbnails below for some examples...


The Red Sparrow Press published the first two parts of THIS in paperback and then the latter portions of the year were mostly consumed by writing and restructuring the 'final' installments (see top of this post). Illustrations for THIS were featured in the exhibition 'Folklore and Fairy Tales of North Wales' at Oriel Ty Meirion (see previous post HERE) and the books were a focus of several creative workshops and storytelling appearances at the wonderful RSPB Conwy... where there were badges!

...and talking of badges - I was chuffed to be recognised with a 'Top Writer in Art' virtual 'badge' for my work editing, and writing for, The Signifier, an arts publication for the Medium platform - you can check that out HERE