Paul Eastwood is a Wrexham-based artist with a practice that explores art as a form of social production and cultural storytelling. Working widely across text, sculpture, performance, video, drawing, printmaking and textiles, Paul creates narrated histories and futures to investigate how place and objects can communicate cultural identities.
During the Litmus residency, Paul will develop the beginnings of his ambitious project ‘Dyfodiaith’ (future – language), which imagines speaking to an unknown future where the Brythonic language has remained alive, evolving throughout the centuries into something strange and unfamiliar. The Brythonic language, collectively a group of ancient Celtic languages, were spoken in Britain before and during the Roman occupation, surviving as Welsh and Cornish, and taken to Brittany by emigrants. ‘Dyfodiaith’ creatively investigates the cultural context of the Welsh language in relation to minority languages spoken worldwide, bilingualism and common languages, asking: What language will we speak in the future? How will it sound and what will it look like?
Building on the legacy of Oriel Davies’ previous initiatives - TestBed and In Focus - Litmus is an exhibition and development programme offering curatorial and practical support for five early career artists based in Wales and the Welsh Borders to research, develop and present new work at Oriel Davies.
Find out more about Litmus here.
Litmus is supported by the Arts Council of Wales.
Documenting the residency process
An artist residency gives artist, gallery, and participating community an opportunity to explore, test, and create new work that resonates with ideas they are researching in their practice, as well as the residency location.
So how does this actually work in practice? Each week Litmus Curator Louise will be asking Paul a question about her residency work as it evolves. In this way we hope to try to document the residency process.
Q1. During the Litmus residency, you’ll be beginning your ambitious project Dyfodiaith, how would you introduce the project?
The main aim of the project is to explore how language has the potential to shape your thoughts and actions by the vocabulary you use, and how we might then attempt to communicate with a future that hasn’t yet happened.
Q2. What materials have inspired you, in your thinking around Dyfodiaith?
Dyfodiaith is inspired by Jerry Hunter’s ‘Ebargofiant’ (2014) which is set in a distant future where no-one in society can write and Islwyn Ffowc Elis’s novel ‘Wythnos Yng Nghymru Fydd’ (1957) set in a dystopian / utopian future Wales. I am also fascinated with George Orwell’s Newspeak from his dystopian novel ‘1984’ (1949) and the ‘Nadsat’ Russian-influenced English used by teenagers in Anthony Burgess’s novel ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1962).
Q3. How have you come to work with language, and specifically, the Welsh language?
It wasn’t until 2009, when I was living in Germany and learning German, that I started to question my own heritage and language. What does it mean to acquire another language, when you haven’t access to using the one you were educated in? What purpose does it serve and how can it inform the world around you? Also, in a wider context, I want to examine how you work with a minority language and how speakers of minority languages have a platform in a global arena.
Q4. In your artist practice, you explore art as a form of social production and cultural story telling. What interests you in this framework?
The framework of story telling enables inquiry and questioning because it creates a space to introduce doubt. I think of it as being like a video essay, where a series of hypotheses are put forward and questioned through a narrative, and the visuals aid the interpretation of these ideas.
Q5. How will you use your time during the Litmus residency?
I’ll be focusing on forms of writing and drawing during this residency. The project will revolve around two micro narratives: Brythonic ‘a dead language alive’ and A future ‘unknown consequences’. I’m interested in examining archaic words and exploring how I can re-introduce them via the script narrative, bringing dead and uncommon words back into use – ‘a dead language alive’.
Q6. You’ve brought a collection of your own books into the Litmus space, how are you working with these books?
During a research and development project ‘iwotpia’, I became aware how difficult it was to obtain reference material in the Welsh language without going to the National Library of Wales, or Banger University. As I was thinking about languages that are marginalised, or on the periphery, I started to think about Andre Malraux’s idea of the ‘imaginary library’ and Jorge Luis Borges’s ‘The Library of Babel’ to question how architecture is instrumental in defining visual representations of ideas in a non-literary context. The imaginary library is a way to reimagine the role of the gallery and artist where objects, artifacts, images, sculptures and furniture are the physical representation of ideas that enable us to think differently about the world we live and occupy.
Q7. You describe your prints as ’sketches’, could you talk about this in relation to developing performance?
I see these prints enabling me to think about how I might want to develop a performance, without literally making illustrations for a live event. The act of drawing provides an opportunity for me to think about how to occupy time, and how ideas develop over a specific period. I will move materials around on a printing plate or make marks in pencils / felt tip pens to generate an image. Some are successful but most are not; I find mistakes to be the most rewarding.