Open Frequency 2009: Maria Conran selected by Chris Brown

Open Frequency 2009: Maria Conran selected by Chris Brown Maia Conran, Little or no marrow, 2008. Digital print. Credit: Maia Conran

Chris Brown selects the work of Maria Conran


Maia Conran's practice utilises and appropriates a variety of systems, codes and traditions to develop an oblique portrait of sorts, often a self-portrait. Her understanding and interpretation of the world is mediated via pre-existing patterns of information, which she subverts for her own humorous ends. The worlds of business, bureaucracy and science are all fair game in Conran's diaristic episodes.

In the series 'Bowen Estates' (2007) the language of the estate agent is used to dispassionately describe a number of typical properties across Wales – the various houses of the artist's life – but written in terms of memories and events that prospective buyers wouldn't normally be privy to. The houses are featured in a series of prints resembling notices in an estate agent's window. On Princes St in Bangor is a first floor apartment that 'would suit single professional as it has already witnessed the end of three relationships. The accommodation consists of… a useful bay window for screening who's at the front door, a corridor kitchen that got covered in Frosties in a fit of temper'.

Similarly, the series '23 Bedrooms' (2007) uses an architectural plan style to detail every bedroom the artist has slept in. The monochrome plans are drawn from memory and feature blocky bed and sink shapes, simple linear walls, doors and stairs. As with 'Bowen Estates', it is the brief accompanying text that animates these drawings: for bedroom number 18, 'She came into the room in her underwear to flirt with my boyfriend'; for number 22, 'I could hear the bull shagging in the next field. A mouse stole my Mars bar'. Number 10 is just an empty rectangle with a doorway and two windows: 'I can't remember where the furniture was. I was in limbo. It was brown'. It's as if these systems of presenting information are a way of divulging the most intimate details about Conran's life while preserving a distance from the viewer.

For the 'B&B Project' (2008) Conran becomes an anonymous observer and allows the idiosyncrasies of others' personal lives to take centre stage. The project is a photographic portrait of the owners of these guest houses, seen through the peculiarities of décor, furnishings and rituals. This is the world of tartan print divans and mini water heaters mounted on anaglypta-covered walls. The photographs are transferred onto floral decorative plates which are then gifted to the B&B for display. As objects the plates are at once hideous and alluring: hideous in that they evoke the worst aesthetics of guest houses, but this is really cranked up to a level of abject fascination by the superimposed floral pattern on each plate, creating a luxurious medley of kitsch.

At the time of writing, Conran is embarking on a new body of work entitled 'The Welsh Space Program' (2008), for which she is developing a DIY training programme of physical and technical exercises to prepare herself for the possibility of space travel.

Chris Brown, October 2008


Artist's biography

Maia Conran was born in Bangor, North Wales and studied at Sheffield Hallam University (2001- 2004). She works primarily in digital media and installation, her work is concerned with humor, loneliness and the location of home. Conran was artist in residence at the Welsh National Eisteddfod in 2005, and in 2008 she was the recipient of a 'Public Art Wales Good Ideas Award' to complete a residency based at B&Bs in Wales. She divides her time between Bristol and Bangor where she lectures on the University of Wales Undergraduate Fine Art course.


About Chris Brown

Chris Brown is an artist, musician and co-founder of the artist-run organisation g39. He is responsible for g39's strategic development within Wales, the UK and beyond. He is also Magazine Coordinator for a-n The artists information company, and acts in an advisory capacity for a-n's NAN and AIR initiatives. Chris is currently studying postgraduate Composition and Jazz at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Cardiff) and is a member of Go Faster Stripe, an independent collective that promotes high-profile UK comedians through its programme of live acts and DVD production.


Open Frequency you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.