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Cyn ac Wedyn - Before and After

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Polly March Polly March | 10:50 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A surrealist exhibition which explores artist Wanda Zyborska's experience of breast cancer will open at the Rhyl Library Arts Centre in January.

Cyn ac Wedyn - Before and After chronicles her battle with the disease from diagnosis, through surgery, reconstruction and recovery.

Detail of one of Wanda Zyborska's sculptures. Image courtesy of the artist

Detail of one of Wanda Zyborska's sculptures. Image courtesy of the artist

But rather than just representing a life-affirming survival story, Zyborska has taken this opportunity to use her sculptures and the photography of Glyn Davies to also explore notions of female sexuality as a woman's body ages.

She said: "Women of my age (57) seem to become invisible and I wanted to show people that I am still here and can use my body in my art."

Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, Zyborska, from Anglesey, wrote a blog from her hospital bed. It led to an art project she has carried out since ,which has enabled her to create distance between herself and the gruelling experience and "have some fun".

"I was due to have breast reconstruction surgery and I wanted to do some work about why I wanted to control the way I was seen and I wanted to show the scar as being something beautiful," she said.

Realising that she would never be the same way again after the surgery, she decided to document what she refers to as a "strange no man's land" of getting on with life after cancer and amputation but also to make a record of the empty place on her chest and the scar that she has become used to.

"I want to show the grace, strength, sexuality and humour of the body of a woman of a certain age and experience. I want to show the ambiguity of a body that has been altered, looking through different aesthetics; surrealism, erotica and landscape photography.

"This latest exhibition is about the whole process but also about the sexuality of women of a certain age, how people see us and how we want to be seen differently.

"In Glyn's photos, I worked with my sculptures in an installation in my garage to show myself in an erotic way, but not being objectified."

The images that will be on show in Rhyl depict Zyborska echoing a number of surrealist poses, from the bourgeois notion of women as hysterics to Man Ray's techniques of photographing women artists in such a way that they had a say in how they were represented.

Detail of a photograph of Wanda Zyborska's. Image courtesy of Wanda Zyborska and Glyn Davies

Detail of a photograph of Wanda Zyborska's. Image courtesy of Wanda Zyborska and Glyn Davies

Glyn Davies' photos echo that notion of women being captured by the eye of a male photographer.

"Glyn is an artist who is always able to find the beautiful and the strange in nature. I wondered if he could find it in my ageing and mutilated body," said Zyborska.

"I wanted him to photograph me as if I was a rather lovely rock, chosen for its own special qualities. I made a series of drawings of poses and proposed compositions.

"Man Ray collaborated with his models who were also artists in their own right. They worked together on the poses and ideas for his photographs. I believe it was their input that gave his work its surrealist edge. I wanted to work with Glyn in this way, choosing the images and compositions together, but with me taking the lead."

Much of Zyborska's sculpture work involves using industrial materials like tractor inner tubes, car and bicycle tyres and then using traditional sewing methods to stitch them. The idea is for the domestic feminine techniques to reconfigure how the masculine materials are perceived and challenge the viewer's notion of gender in art.

Zyborska has now had the five year all-clear from cancer and is looking forward to exhibiting her work in Bucharest, Romania in 2012.

Her show in Rhyl will take place from 7 January to 4 February 2012, with a public opening on Tuesday 10 January, 6-8pm. At 7pm she will perform, using the sculptural form, with musician and singer Ann Matthews. Admission is free.

The exhibition at Rhyl Library Arts Centre, in Church Street, Rhyl, will include a series of large digital photographs, large rubber sculptures and a blog by Wanda containing drawings and text.

The centre is open from 10am-5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am-12.30pm on Saturday. For more information visit wandazyborska.co.uk.

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