Resonant with Rebellion

From Planet 237

by Catrin Webster

Catrin Webster gives a preview of John Abell’s extraordinary new exhibition ‘Becca and Her Children’, reflecting on the history of the Rebecca Riots that inspired it. She describes how his work reaches back in time to medieval woodcuts, but also speaks profoundly to our era of impoverishment, protest and Conservative rule.

I was immediately struck by the intensity of the images of John Abell’s art works that were sent though to me from the Edinburgh-based Arusha Gallery, who represent the artist. The works form part of Abell’s exhibition ‘Becca and her Children’ which is held in Newton House, Dinefwr. These new linocuts, drypoint engravings and paintings respond to the history of Newton House, and the Rebecca Riots in particular, drawing on Abell’s residency there, which was part of the National Trust’s ‘People’s Landscape’ programme from 2019. The images initially appeared in small scale on my phone screen, and then on my laptop. An alternative world is spun from the historical narrative, marking 180 years since the Rebecca Riots (the rioters, who were active throughout the local area, burnt wheat stacks from a farm on the Dinefwr Park estate). This world is woven into the surface, which is intricately laced with lines and connections, both visual and narrative. These images are layered with meaning, movement and multiple methods of mark-making.

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