An Exhibition of Welsh Contemporary Art at the London Welsh Centre, London, February 2022 – The storms raged, the roads from Wales were closed, wheeley bins were flying at head height outside the London Welsh Centre on the Grays Inn Road, bits of trees flying past as the worst winds since 1987 made getting an art show together almost impossible. An Exhibition of Welsh Contemporary Art happened, despite all, last weekend, invited artists from all over Wales alongside artists originally from Wales. The London Welsh Centre is a fascinating place, steeped in history, opened in the 1930s and very much looking and feeling like it dates from that time – The origins of the London Welsh Centre date back to 1920 when an organisation ‘Young Wales’ was formed to give a focus for young Welsh people in London, it exists to celebrate and support Welsh culture and the Welsh language in London, and last weekend as part of the annual Wales Week London the centre curated and hosted, as a launch to the whole week (and a bit), an exhibition called An Exhibition of Welsh Contemporary Art.
The artists were invited, a Welsh fingerprint to be found running through almost all the work in the space, some of it maybe a little more traditional than contemporary, some of it from the South of Wales, some of it from the North, some from the middle, some of it made by artists no longer living and working in Wales, all of it touching on Wales (you don’t really leave Wales, it stays with you wherever you go) – the sea, the mountains, daffodils, not too many dragons, it is of course almost impossible to be an artist from Wales and to not want (or need) to paint the sea, the mountains, the slate, the sky, it is what defines the country, those mountains that some might argue split the country. North and South are rather different in terms of cultural references, you are very aware of this when you grow up in the North (as I did) and look more towards Manchester or Liverpool than you do Cardiff for your art and your music.
So some of the worst weather in ages, some of the worst winds in years, the advise is to not go out, the advise is to not travel, roads are blocked, motorways are shut, bridges out of Wales are closed, the Mayor of London is pleading with people to stay in, somehow all the artists get there with their work, some at the (very) very last minute, and somehow, a more than healthy mostly Welsh speaking crowd have arrived for what turns out to be a rather fine evening of art of discussion, debate, of food and drink (and yes, soem singing).
Eloise Govier‘s rich paintings are certainly a highlight, she’s featured on these pages before, it is no big secret that her work is admired around here – we found her via last year’s Wales Week London – her paintings are glorious, her powerful use of paint, her delicious use of colour, her Welsh coasts, her pieces are seriously contemporary, seriously exciting, and her new paintings contrast gloriously with the beautifully carved Welsh spoons of Ceini Spiller. Yes, there are spoons, there are more traditional seascapes, the work of Francine Davies stands out, her waves crashing on to Welsh rocks, as do the rather beautiful, if a little more traditional landscapes of Sarah Jane Brown or the the work of John Stout. Yes, some of it is very traditional, maybe not quite as cutting edge as art coming from Wales can actually be? It would have been good to see artists like Angharad Pearce Jones or Billy Bagilhole or some of the artists currently showing in the 40(+1) show at Bangor’s Storiel Gallery. Some of this does feel a little bogged down in just a little too much tradition, not that Welsh tradition should ever be forgotten or pushed aside, of course Welsh art can be both traditional and contemporary, just look at that excellent Kevin Sinnott exhibition over at Flowers Gallery at the moment (also part of Wales Week London). Jonathan Retallick‘s take on things are beautifully interesting, strong forward looking work. And yes, I confess, writing about a show I’m taking part in yet again, had you not noticed how often I take to painting daffodils? They may look like Hackney daffodils these days, probably is time I headed home.
The opening night is busy, the film crews are here, the opening night features on the Welsh language news, there’s speeches, an opening night auction for a sketchbook featuring the work of artists include Kevin Sinnott, Alan Salisbury, Emrys Williams, Aiden Myers, Melanie Wotton, Catrin Williams, Meinir Mathias, Sarah Hope, Steffan Jones-Hughes, Elfyn Lewis, Philippa Robbins, and many more, a collaboration between Wales Week London and artist Nichola Hope that commands a healthy price. Apparently the book has been travelling around Wales for each artist to add work to a page The opening night becomes a bit of a party, a proper celebration.
Hey look, a find event, the weather couldn’t quite hold it back, it was mostly the Welsh of London who came, shame about that, An Exhibition of Welsh Contemporary Art was quite an event, if you missed it, you missed a good one. (sw)
As always, click on an image toenlarge or to run the slide show