Punch Maughan: Well, I'm my name is Punch Maughan and I own a contemporary art gallery here in Brecon and I'm sitting with two of the artists who are going to be opening an exhibition with us this year called, found in the town and found in the hills, and those artists are Michael Howard, and Roger Reese. And both of them are inspired by different things relating to Brecon and the hinterland of Brecon. I don't know, Michael, if you want to say what inspires you about about your work and what you're going to be showing with us at Found?
Michael Howard: Well, I'm going to be showing a bunch of landscapes so in my head, I don't actually see them as landscapes. The paintings are about paintings, or about painting. But yeah, they are of all the hills and mountains and valleys, around where I live in Trallong.
Punch Maughan: And Trallong is where?
Michael Howard: Trallong is just on the A40 coming outside Brecon heading towards Swansea.
Punch Maughan: So on the west side of a Brec...
Michael Howard: On the West side of Brecon. So yeah, so it's quite quite hilly. There's a really nice common behind me with lots of bracken and russet colours and that kind of thing, which I really enjoy, and lots of tracks and trails, and walls and lots of scars and marks left by humans, that kind of thing. And I really like that it's a big aspect of my work.
Punch Maughan: Yes, which is abstract, I think you would say your work is sort of an abstract interpretation to a degree.
Michael Howard: Its abstracted yeah. I don't really I don't really sort of go out to record a place that's not in my head at all. So I don't go to record Brecon or Brecon hills. I'm looking for structural things, textural things. All the technical aspects, that sort of makeup, painting, all the formal things, formal qualities.
Punch Maughan: Yeah well...
Michael Howard: ...That's what I'm looking for. So it's, I don't want to make sort of landscape cliches, that's really easy to do. And it's a big problem about sort of rejecting lots of things, and finding a sort of personal voice within all that.
Punch Maughan: No, I agree. And that's one of the reasons why i've you know, i'm going to enjoy showing your work, so, so that's lovely. Whereas Roger, I think yours is much more about the built environment in terms of the exhibition that we're planning that shortly anyway, isn't it?
Roger Reese: Yes, that's absolutely right. I mean, I actually do live in the countryside just outside Brecon as well. A little place called Talyllyn, just south we...south east of Brecon, again on the A40 but near Llangorse Lake but obviously, I come into Brecon a lot, frequently. For me, it's an incredible town, quite an incredible town for all sorts of reasons. So the work I do is very much in the vein of recording, I see it simple as that. I love looking at those buildings around us, whatever age and actually thinking about the activities that took place around and in them, and also about the nature of change, how some buildings will slowly disappear through the process of change, and sometimes, not always replaced with buildings of the same sort of quality or visual aspects. But I do like that slow process of change. And often when something disappears, it's replaced. It's very difficult to actually picture what was there before and you know, so being able to record impressions of views whether it's down the street or a building, and just being able to capture something about that, more so than perhaps the human activity around it. It's the environment that's important. People almost seem to be in and out of an environment have a picture of it of a scene, and the buildings remain. And so they've got stories to tell. And I'd like to be able to capture something about the story of the buildings themselves. And of course, those stories are about people. What an incredible place, Brecon is and there's so many reasons. The cultural aspect of Brecon the heritage is phenomenal. I mean, living in the southeast of England, believe it or not, it's a desert, a cultural desert. It's quite a wealthy area. But we were living close to a large town. There was no theatre. There was no cinema. There was no gallery. There was not this sort of focus on the arts, whether it was music theatre or whatever, and coming to Brecon, it was a transformation. We have a theatre. We have this wonderful building. We're in now Y Gaer. We've got a beautiful Cathedral. We've got the Military Museum just down the road. We've got the canal, we've got the Usk river, we've got links with the Romans and so on. And we've got these wonderful buildings in Brecon, buildings that go beyond the Georgian, that are sort of 14th ,15th, 16th century. And they're still there. Brecon is a very interesting place. because much of what was here is still here, although partly hidden. there's been very little change. Unlike many towns and so you are, I think stepping back into time, but also is a thriving, cultural, artistic scene.
Punch Maughan: Yeah, I think just the size of the Assize Court that is part of this Y Gaer court to show the, you know, the importance of Brecon back in the day that, you know, you know, you still see in the fact that we've still maintained four, if not five banks here, you know, it's allowing the town to, it's a sort of, it's going back to perhaps what that hub was, whereas all the outlying towns have lost some of that.
Roger Reese: Another interesting thing that I feel passionate about is that sort of heritage. And theres is a tremendous heritage in Brecon. But I didn't know until I was led by the hand that quite a few significant artists have visited Brecon and have actually portrayed various parts of Brecon itself, particularly the River Honddu. And William Gibbs, in particular, gave me this personal tour. We were walking down the length of Honddu from Priory Gardens stopping every so often, this artist painted this view. It was a record a visual record of these wonderful scenes painted in the sort of the dramatic, romantic, almost as the alternative to the views of Rome, you know, the Napoleonic Wars, artists could not no longer travel and, and paint abroad. So they found areas in Britain like the Lake District, North Wales, but they also came to Brecon. And Turner came to record.
Punch Maughan: Yeah, he said that to the other evening. That would be an interesting exhibition actually, wouldn't it, you know, series of, you know, some of the greats and what what views did they paint of, of Brecon and its surrounding landscape...
Michael Howard: ...I,I, I was really pleased when you have that exhibition at the theatre? It was a traveling exhibition, or touring exhibition, and more of that kind of thing of it would be brilliant. So you're bringing something that's significant in terms of national.
Punch Maughan: Yeah
Michael Howard: not just Welsh National but British National. And it's coming to Brecon. Brecon's a, good place for that kind of thing to happen.
Punch Maughan: Yes,
Michael Howard: and it's really nice that so that Brecon becomes significant artistically outside of Brecon.
Punch Maughan: Absolutely. And outside of Wales, actually, we need to encourage footfall from outside of Wales as well to the town.
Michael Howard: I don't think we should sort of be nostalgic about about Wales and about Brecon I think we should be thinking forward and getting so so that things that happened here, are sort of started by young people, and about young people being interested in the art world. So there's new things going on.
Punch Maughan: Yeah.
Michael Howard Rather than as I say this, this this grey revolution that's going on here in a moment,
Punch Maughan: There's a picture actually that's on the portal for this Brecon story, which is looking down the Watton from Brecon town centre out and it's it was obviously on in I don't know who's in the morning or the evening but it's sort of quite black and white, slightly wet road. There's quite a lot of cars parked along the side the Watton. But it's really atmospheric with the sort of light it's a really sort of shadowy and I thought that's quite an interesting picture to include but it's it actually shows the town in quite a bit it's not the sort of classic archetype or middle of the town it's this sort of key road the Watton was a key road coming in to recognise others quite an interesting photograph to to have on there and you know, shows that aspect of the of the light I think, in terms of encouraging more other you know Brecon as a magnet for artists or other things do you think we should? What could we do that's encouraging people...
Michael Howard: In terms of Brecon and the art scene and the way we've got art here. You know, you do see, the odd empty shop alone it's really depressing i kind of think and the way we use towns these days. We don't use towns as a high street anymore. We just click a button and buy something. And I think the potential of the arts or galleries Those kind of things peppered around the town. It could be the sort of,
Punch Maughan: to do more with empty shop fronts. You mean? or to...
Roger Reese: no no. Well for me more galleries I can show my work.
All: (They laugh)
Michael Howard: But that kind of thing where it's not you're gone down to the deli kind of thing. You're actually going it's a cultural, like this place. It's the hub. Yeah, well, it was gonna be a called the hub wasn't it at one point.
Punch Maughan: Yes,
Michael Howard: But yeah, so it's like you got to Hay for books or you got to St Ives for the St Ives painters, you go to Brecon for the for the Welsh Art. It'd be really nice if that happened in terms of the future for for the art for us here.
Punch Maughan: Yes.
Roger Reese: That'd be great.