ORGAN PREVIEW: 40(+1) Celf Sylfaen Bangor Art Foundation at Storiel Gallery and Pontio, Bangor, North Wales, a celebration of something rather special…

40(+1) Celf Sylfaen Bangor Art Foundation at Storiel Gallery and Pontio, Bangor, North Wales – The highly regarded Art Foundation Course in Bangor, North Wales, Celebrates 40 Years, Coleg Menai’s Art Foundation course, which is currently to be found at its Parc Menai campus, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It was part of Gwynedd Tech when I went there in the early 80’s, it was, as many others will tell you, life-changing. 

“Launched in 1980, the Art Foundation course was originally delivered by several renowned practising artists and designers: alongside landscape artist Peter Prendergast were Paul Davies, Ed Davies, Phil Mumford and Alan Brunsdon, and the course was led by Selwyn Jones. Forty years on, the course is now led by Peter’s son Owein Prendergast, alongside Miranda Millieur, Iwan Parry, Darren Hughes, Tim Williams and Helen Jones”. There are other names that I remember from my time, Peter Prendergast and Paul Davies were the driving forces during my time though – the attitudes towards art (and more) that they cemented, the work ethic, the questions the two of them planted, the challenges they both laid down. The one year course was tough,  it was brilliant, their voices still ring regularly some thirty odd years later – “you’re not looking!”.

Design by current Foundation student Fflur Mai for the 40+1 exhibition

As far as I can see, anyone who was lucky enough to be part of the Art Foundation Course at Bangor stills speak very fondly of it. I mean, an almost clueless teenage wannabee painter (or designer or musician or film maker) could want for nothing more than a year spent with a challenging artist (and general all round excellent human, as tough as he was at the time) like Peter Prendergast (oh the number of times I’ve quoted Peter to young artists coming to the gallery shows and such I’ve put on here in London).

And so the Art Foundation Course in Bangor is 40 years old, actually the course is 41, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the celebratory exhibition that should have taken place last year will now take place this Spring, and has been aptly named 40(+1) Celf Sylfaen Bangor Art Foundation.

“The exhibition will be held at Storiel and Pontio in Bangor, and will include the work of 41 notable past students from the Art Foundation course – one artist to mark each year of the course’s existence. Artists’ work to be featured in the exhibition include that of Ann Catrin Evans, Bedwyr Williams, Billy Bagilhole, Annie Atkins, Bethan Huws and Angharad Pierce Jones, alongside work from current teaching staff – and yes, once again I should declare my own interest, I am one of those 41 past students who has been invited to take part in the show, one of my recent paintings is currently up on the wall at the big Storiel Gallery in the middle of Bangor, and yes it is an honour to be invited to take part – I might show my paintings regularly here in my now home base of London, I might get to show in some excellent shows and galleries, showing in Bangor in a show like this is rather special though. 

We’re told there will also be a range of other events taking place, including: a screening of ‘Shepherd’ by Russell Owen, followed by a Q&A with Russell in Pontio on Tuesday February 1st; two workshops with Jessie Chorley on March 10th and 11th in Storiel, as well as a range of artists’ talks by such luminaries as Bedwyr Williams and fashion designer Luis Lopez Smith (dates to follow).

Owein Prendergast, Art Foundation course leader, said: “This exhibition, held between Storiel and Pontio, contains the work of over 40 artists and designers from this small part of North West Wales who have gone on to make their mark, significantly, on the world we all live in. It also contains work by the current teaching team. This is just a small snapshot, as thousands of students have passed through the doors of Bangor’s Art Foundation course and gone on to tread their own creative paths. It would be an impossible task to represent them all individually, but hopefully this show represents a collective spirit that those of us who have completed this special course share”.

A newly commissioned piece by Angharad Pearce Jones is now complete in Pontio as part of the 40+1 show

Owein went on to say “I am privileged to still be a part of the course that I have led since 1997, and I will forever be indebted to Ed Davies, Paul Davies, Phil Mumford, Alan Brunsdon and Peter Prendergast, all of whom were practising artists in their own right. It is also important to mention Leslie Jones and Selwyn Jones whose original vision led to the course being set up in the first place. We strive to continue to push their original ethos with the same enthusiasm and rigour as when it first started 40+1 years ago. I hope that we can continue to change people’s lives.”

Paul Edwards, Creative Arts programme area manager at Coleg Menai, added: “We are very much looking forward to the Foundation 40(+1) exhibition at Storiel and Pontio. The list of past students who have followed the Art Foundation course at Coleg Menai is truly impressive. We are very grateful for their support in bringing this exhibition to fruition, and thanks to the staff who have worked tirelessly to curate this excellent programme of events.”

Manon Awst, Pontio arts public spaces co-ordinator said: “This course has steered the paths of so many creatives within the area, and it is fantastic to be able to celebrate its success with this exhibition. At Pontio, we’re thrilled to show multimedia artworks by six artists, including film, sculpture, sketchbooks and a new site-specific commission. It’s a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with Storiel.”

Delyth Williams, visual arts officer at Storiel, said: “We are delighted to be involved in celebrating this notable milestone of forty plus years since the start of the Art Foundation Course at Bangor, and to open our 2022 programme at Storiel with this special exhibition. We are exhibiting an exciting and diverse collection of artworks. The 40+ works on show represent just a fraction of the greater number of past students who have continued with their art practice in various creative and art-related careers. This is testimony to the individuals themselves and to the opportunities offered on this course at Coleg Menai. We would like to thank the course leader for bringing this collaboration together at Storiel and Pontio.”

An installation shot ahead of the show

It has to be said, we were lucky, a happy accident, being from Anglesey, for once, paid off. I speak to lots of artists, to lots of students who went to foundation courses all over the land, the general opinion is that a one year Art Foundation Course that allows a young student fresh out of school to find themselves, to find a direction before heading further into their art education and the art world beyond, is an excellent first step. It does seem that those of us who were lucky enough to spend a year of our lives taking part in the course at Bangor got to take part in something extra special, it was a little more than just another art foundation course.  I mean, we got to study with some very serious North Wales artists and designers, some very serious people. It really was life changing (and from what I see, it still is, I see exciting new artists emerging, some of whom I’ve has the pleasure of including some of the recent shows I’ve curated). These days I exist as a full-time painter and curator here in East London, I still carry lots and lots from by time at Bangor, there aren’t many days when Peter Prendergast doesn’t whisper something (in that rich Welsh accent of his) in my ear. I carry it everyday, I carried it when I got caught up running a record label and working with bands, I carried it when I started running galleries and shows, I carry it everyday – the intensity, the commitment, the work ethic and beyond that the way of seeing things, approaching art, questioning what I’m doing – if you went to Bangor, you were very lucky indeed, it set you up for art, for life. I have nothing but thanks to offer the Foundation Course at Bangor, to Peter, Paul, Lynne, Ed and all who gave their time while I was there, and I’m pretty sure those who followed me would say the same of those who ran the course later on or indeed those who do so now. Thank you Bangor. Really looking forward to seeing this show. (sw)          

The exhibition will open to the public on January 22nd, and run until April 2nd 2022.  Entry will be free of charge. There are also plans in place to have a celebratory event between Storiel and Pontio on March 4th (details to follow).

Do please, as always, click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show.

5 thoughts on “ORGAN PREVIEW: 40(+1) Celf Sylfaen Bangor Art Foundation at Storiel Gallery and Pontio, Bangor, North Wales, a celebration of something rather special…

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