42 people joined the visit to Cardiff, to enjoy this wonderful city, in glorious weather. Most people chose to start at Cardiff Bay, the site of an incredible regeneration from a run down, dilapidated area that was once one of the busiest ports in Europe to a modern area of culture, politics and entertainment.
On one level the beauty of the buildings was somewhat spoilt by the temporary transformation taking place in readiness for the forthcoming Eisteddfod. On the other hand, it gave a lively buzz to the area reinforcing the feel of regeneration and sense of purpose. One of our members chose to focus on the Arts Gallery, where there were two special exhibitions.
The National Museum Cardiff is an amazing place, with something to please everyone.
On this visit I started with the special exhibition “Kizuna Japan-Wales-Design”. Kizuna means the bonds of friendship and this exhibition explores the distinctive relationship between Wales and Japan and how each culture influenced and contributed to each other’s history. The exhibition includes objects dating back from 400 years right up to contemporary design and technology. We all know how Japanese art influenced European art, but Japanese artists and craftsmen were fascinated by Western inventions and adapted them in their own unique style (as seen in their unique interpretation of a clockwork mechanism). There is a distinctive 17th century lacquered coffer (a box or chest for valuables) that is the first known Japanese piece to have come to Wales. Other highlights include a 400 year old hand scroll painted with monsters that was a forerunner of modern animation. There are exquisite ceramics, beautifully embroidered robes and other stunning objects to look at.
The exhibition also explores the relationship of Wales and Japan through technology and how Wales played a decisive part in Japan’s rapid industrialization. Did you know that Welsh steel was used to build Japan’s first railways? Wales is still home to many Japanese manufacturing firms, maintaining the close relationship to this day.
After the special exhibition I visited the permanent collection with excellent pieces of fine art, sculpture and decorative art. The gallery has one of the finest collections of Impressionist art with works by Monet, Manet, Renoir, van Gogh, Cezanne and my favourite, a painting by Berthe Morisot. The modern painting collection includes works by Hockney and Bacon. This is one of the best art collections in the UK and I can guarantee that you will be surprised to see famous works of art that you had no idea were here. If you can tear yourself away from the art there is also the rest of the museum to see. Best thing of all, it is entirely free of charge, including the special exhibitions.