Osi Rhys Osmond on mentoring The Exhibitionists

Wednesday 4 July 2012, 17:05

BBC Wales Arts BBC Wales Arts

Osi Rhys Osmond is a highly respected Welsh painter and a lecturer at Swansea Metropolitan University. He is one of the mentors on The Exhibitionists and talks here about his involvement in the series.

The Exhibitionists is a brilliant idea for a TV programme - taking five individuals with no experience of art in a professional sense and asking them to curate an exhibition creates an extraordinary set of opportunities.

Osi Rhys Osmond

Osi Rhys Osmond

Our Exhibitionists were all very different, in age, experience and in their knowledge of art. They all had very clear ideas about what art was and how effective the appreciation of art could be as a means of personal development.

It was interesting to observe, as the tasks were introduced to the would-be curators, how the gender differences became quite marked as they played out their roles. There were two mentors, Karen MacInnon of the Glynn Vivian Gallery and me, Osi Rhys Osmond, an artist and writer, to assist them and decide on who should proceed to the final stages.

The men, including Colin, the oldest of the five, tended to play to their memory and to a knowledge-based interpretation. Colin wanted to tell the story of his own experiences and chose pieces that reflected his early days as a miner and his life thereafter. His response was to create a narrative, irrespective of the aesthetic considerations that a curator might be required to invoke. He was the first to leave, although the story he told was interesting, personal and absorbing. There are now four left.

Darren is different to the other men in that he relies on his sense of beauty and a personal and emotional response to objects and paintings; this he communicated very strongly. His strength is in his discrimination as a collector and his sheer pleasure in the delicacy of his chosen artworks.

Richard has great enthusiasm and relies greatly on his phenomenal memory and mastery of facts. He was able to introduce a group of strangers to the works of his choice with confidence and a complete command of the information.

Julia has a powerful personality and in the first task relied rather too much on that. She had obviously done her homework and as she spent time in the museum, with staff helping her she quickly built up a basis of knowledge and understanding.

Efa, the youngest of the competitors is determined to upset the status quo. Seeing works by Iwan Bala and Ifor Davies for the first time has been a revelation to her - Welsh art that is political and challenging.

The Exhibitionists is an extraordinary idea, and will involve more general audiences in the consideration of art. It is serious but not miserable, and entertaining and educating it will bring a new appreciation of the treasures of our national collection. I couldn't wait to enter Gallery 24 to see the exhibitions in place - a show curated by enthusiastic amateurs, but a show to remember and a show the gallery-visiting public will be able to express their opinions about.

The Exhibitionists is on BBC Two Wales, 4 July, 10pm.

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