Unspooling the Gwlana Collection by Angharad Franziska
Teddy Woods reviews The Hen Collective’s artist of the month, Angharad Franziska, as she navigates her recent autism diagnosis, gender identity, and Welsh identity through her powerful body of work. By purposefully employing Welsh language in her auditory and visual art, Angharad conveys her experience of being neurodiverse in a nuerotypical setting to the presumed English-speaking audience.
Artwork by Kate Granholm (IG: @Katesartthings).
The Hen Collective, a femme led artist collective dedicated to platforming femme, women, and non-binary artists, has launched their 9th solo exhibition since their founding in 2021. Currently hosted at the female-run cafe, August21, the Hen Collective provides opportunities for non-male artists in an overwhelmingly male-dominated art world. This month, their artist in the spotlight is Angharad Franziska (she/her), a Welsh artist who explores gender performance, neuro-diversity, and Welsh language/culture through poetry, visual art, and auditory composition.
Forgoing the standard Q+A format of previous Hen Collective opening nights, Angharad, a recent university graduate and fresh postgraduate student from South East Wales, opted instead to recite her poetry alongside a sound installation of distorted noises of wind, breathing and whistling, footsteps, and sheep from a childhood home-video. The themes of this reading, a collection of poems titled “Gwlana”, were well-reflected in the series chosen for the displaying collection at August21: language, landscape, identity, memory, process, and attachments to home.
These poems, which repeatedly circled back to the phrase meddylu meddala gad ifi gwlana, highlighted attachments to one’s ‘true home’ and the inability to convey cultural euphemism into an English-speaking context, exploring how this relates to Angharad’s experience as an autistic woman. The juxtaposition of Welsh and English in her bilingual art and poetry mirrors Angharad’s experience as a neuro-diverse woman in a neuronormative world; “speaking Welsh is how my brain speaks. Speaking English is the way that a neurotypical world speaks.”
This disconnect between Welsh and English is well represented in the inability to clearly define meddylu meddala gad ifi gwlana in English. Meddylu, a word combining both to woolgather and to think into one word, and gad ifi gwlana (let me woolgather), both hold cultural memory which cannot be expressed with the same nuance in a different language. This theme is a cornerstone in this current collection at August21, with meddylu meddala and gwlana popping repeatedly as the title of some of her wool-art installations incorporated into her poetry and mixed media works. Undeniably, the ideas behind the powerful phrase meddylu meddala gad ifi gwlana are rooted deeply in Angharad’s art practice.
Described as at times “a frantic thing with an obsessive need to get out and write something down,” the core of her artistic method lies in a desire to “process quite an overwhelming world." Angharad illustrates her motivations and artistic process; “I’m always trying to make sense of stuff and pick things apart. Whether that’s by thinking or having, like, an actual material, like something physical that you touch and pick apart and weave or whatever, you know, it's a similar process even though it’s happening inside my head or in my hands.” Applying this across mediums, Angharad has created a collection rich with emotional vulnerability as a means of processing her diagnosis, gender identity, and Welsh heritage.
Issue No.8 of the Hen Collective’s monthly Zine featuring her work, alongside Hannah Cash and Agnes Roberts will be for sale at The Blunt Knife Co, while the pieces installed at August21 are available for purchase. While the vibrant opening night of this exhibition may have passed, you can still view her short film, “Gwlana (Wool Gathering),” made in connection with The Hen Collective for this exhibition, further discusses the themes of nature, wool, and neurodiversity in her practice.
Angharad’s displaying collection beautifully illustrates how she navigates neurodivergency in a neurotypical world through her Welsh experience in an English-speaking world. This body of work will be exhibited until the 26th of October at August21 in Morningside.