Genre: Art Documentary
Year Released: 2018
Running Time: 5 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: G
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: The Barefoot Artist, Imber’s Left Hand, Hockney
-This film is streaming on YouTube.
-Check out Meri Well’s website here.
-Meri Wells is a multiple time winner of the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Art International. Her most recent award is the 2018 Potter’s Potter Award.
-She’s from the rural town Aberhosan, Wales which according to the last UK census has a population of just 30 people. Wow, you could fit a classroom with that town’s entire populace.
I’ve been looking for more countries to cover on Iridium Eye, and I finally reached one of the nations that I vowed to get representation on the blog. You see, I’ve covered several films from the United Kingdom with a vast majority from England and with one and a half of UK films being from Northern Ireland (Beyond the Ropes and The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching). I still need to cover a Scottish film, but I managed to get Wales for this go around. Sure, I did review a certain documentary involving a Welsh pro wrestler not that long ago (Eddie Dennis: A 5 Year Old’s Dream), but this documentary involves Welsh directors in this work. Not only that, but the dialogue is in Welsh instead of English besides the occasional loanword here and there.
How does this mini-documentary involving a ceramic artist from the Land of the Red Dragon fare?
Meri Wells details the life of an award-winning ceramicist who lives in a quiet country town in Wales. For decades, she’s created unique works in her little shed and many of these involve pottery projects with different characters, creatures, and the occasional figure from Welsh mythology. Her art has been featured across numerous countries outside of Wales much less the United Kingdom such as Borneo, Latvia, Hungary, Eswatini (FKA Swaziland), and China to name a few. Meri sees art as a form of therapy as she crafts some abstract works as a form of escapism or as a form of expression as she makes sense of the world. Once she first created something that looked like it could pass as serious art, Meri dived deep to keep creating and never stopped since.
This was a documentary that was off the beaten path, but I found some good in it. The production was well-done as it shows these green Arcadian fields in rural Wales while also highlighting all the different pots, sculptures, and other media that was created. One aspect of production that I thought was an interesting choice was the lack of a soundtrack. It’s all natural noise going on which gives it a naturalistic feel which does complement the documentary. Meri herself did offer some unique philosophy to her works. She has this self-doubt about her and sees the world as a tragedy in itself, but she perseveres with needing to express herself and tries not to depict suffering in every last one of her projects. Unlike the English art documentary Hockney, it never got to the levels of Hagiography as her internalized flaws were mentioned which was a nice touch.
I do believe that the Meri Wells documentary could’ve used a few more minutes in the cinematic kiln though. While her ideology on making art was fascinating, I felt that I didn’t know enough about her. The documentary whizzes by at five minutes, and I would’ve liked to have seen at least double the amount of running time. I was also left puzzled by different things. Why stay in a rural part of the country instead of a major city such as Cardiff, Swansea, or Newport? What psychologically affected her to be a full-time artist? Was there anything about her that tied into her work such as mental health, her upbringing, or just being naturally eccentric? I felt that once I really got to see where Meri was coming from, the film just ends.
Meri Wells is a good watch and the titular artist is certainly talented. The naturalistic filming coalesces with the quiet Aberhosan environment. The ideology of her work (the facts and thoughts that are mentioned) was intriguing and her art certainly had so much effort put into it. However, the painfully short running time and hypersonic pacing really hampered my enjoyment. I do wish Meri Wells well as she continues to express herself with clay and paint in future works.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like art documentaries.
Add 1 point if you like calm atmospheres in your docs.
Subtract 1-2 points if you prefer your documentaries to have more events or stories in them.
-Great naturalistic production
-Unique philosophy on art from Meri
-High-quality art on display
-Blistering fast-pace despite the calm setting
-Way too short
-Not enough information about Meri when it comes to her art
Final Score: 6/10 points
Content Warning: Meri Wells is a very tame documentary that anyone can watch. The worst things would be some of the art pieces being weird or scary-looking to younger audiences, but there’s nothing really offensive here.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Meri Wells is property of Lowri Page and Gwenno Tomos. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Lowri Page and Gwenno Tomos.