Cerith Wyn Evans, probably the best-known Welsh artist working today, celebrates something of a homecoming with “….)(,” his exhibition of new and recent work at Mostyn in Llandudno (on view through February 25, 2023). The show (beautifully installed at a perfect venue) is all about light, shadow, transparency, and movement, underscored by poetics. Wyn Evans talks a great deal about poetry, mentioning Edwin Denby and Frank O’Hara in particular, and when you really look at these fragile and complex sculptures you can understand why. They are receptive to place, space, and location, subtly changing in response to airflow and nearby movement.
Of course, they also change with the light, the neon light of the sculptures in dialogue with the natural ambient light of the space. Wyn Evans requested that the works remain lit overnight, so passersby can catch a glimpse of them when the gallery is closed. Neon Forms (after Noh 1) (2015), which hangs close to the entrance, has become a constant presence for the residents of Llandudno. The shifting seasonal light over the course of the show, which opened in October, has added an additional rhythm to daily cycles, continually offering new perspectives as the sun angle falls differently on the works. In this way, there is a blurring of the boundaries between the sculptures and the site. Although the works can be shown elsewhere, they wouldn’t be experienced in the same way.
This is especially relevant in the case of Mostyn Drift (2021). The myriad twists and turns of the neon, which create volume, are not random; they mark movements, gestures, and foot patterns. Some are stammered or stilted. They indicate how the body moves and turns, embodying an allegory for humanity around which we can circle at proximity and distance. Previously known as Aspen Drift, this work was shown at the Aspen Art Museum in 2021; but since Wyn Evans was unable to see it there, it was almost as if it had never existed. In this new incarnation, Mostyn Drift is experienced under Welsh skies. The light is different on the north Wales coast, revealing a different work.
Given Wyn Evans’s acute interest in poetry, a mention of Dylan Thomas seems relevant. In Quite Early One Morning, first broadcast on radio in 1944, Thomas describes how the town he is writing about isn’t lit from above, “but in separate bright pieces.” This precisely describes Llandudno on the day I visited.
Evans’s neon sculptures at Mostyn are, as he has described it, lit with “pale dispassion.” They do not force themselves on the viewer, but act tenderly in their relationships. The same might be said of the three windscreen mobiles, phase shifts (after David Tudor) (all 2020), with three, four, and five screens, respectively. Pli S=E=L=O=N Pli (2020), fitted with five-channel audio, speakers, and amplifiers, also establishes atmospherics. Low-level radio noise has visitors straining to listen, while microphones pick up the movement of air and people as they pass by.
There are, undoubtedly, many ways to interpret, perceive, and experience the world around us. Even when it seems there is no room for ambiguity, there are always discrepancies or deviations between how people see things. Wyn Evans understands this, and his work continually interrogates our perceptions and structures of communication, whether visual, aural, or conceptual. He has also included a last-minute, moving-image installation and some other surprises in the show, among them, a series of plaster board fragments—each named Decor–Relic (2022)—cannibalized from a previous exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey in London. These reclaimed fragments suggest an ongoing iteration of works and exhibitions, never ending. This is the sort of playful practice that even poets such as Evans cannot resist.