Welsh Artist of the Year

Wednesday 23 June 2010, 16:24

Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola Heywood Thomas

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The 10th Welsh Artist of the Year exhibition is on at St David's Hall in Cardiff until 6 August and the winners of the different categories and overall winner were announced on Sunday.

For the first time in five years, a painter won the title Welsh Artist of the Year. He's Elfyn Lewis, originally from Porthmadog but now living and working in Cardiff. Elfyn's abstract landscapes also won him the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddofd last year. He and the curator of the Welsh Artist of the Year exhibition will be on this week's Radio Wales Arts Show.

The runner up and winner of the Sculpture Prize was Emily Jenkins - a former teacher whose complex ceramic pieces, called The Right to Return, deal with the issue of Palestinian farmers driven from their olive and lemon groves by Israeli settlers.

The competition is open to professional and amateur artists living and working in Wales and this year attracted around 400 entries. From those, almost a hundred pieces were selected by a judging panel for display in an exhibition that's an exciting demonstration of the best in visual arts in Wales.

It's always very exciting to see works by established artists side by side with those of students and to have such a mix of media on show. There's just about everything in this exhibition from painting to ceramics, photography to sculpture and from video to drawings and prints. All the work is for sale so I was very careful to leave my purse and cheque book at home!

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    Comment number 1.

    I've been looking at the Welsh Artist of the Year show for some years. I have always thought, and still do think, that it is a great idea. I also think its a nice venue for a show of this kind. The prize money is also a great thing for underfunded, struggling artists.

    I want to be careful that I don't come over as overly critical or snobby as I think there is so much that is positive about the show and much of the work on display.

    I had a look at the 2010 show and was wowed with the quality of much of the work, but I have to say, there were a number of items that surprised me in terms of their inclusion in the show. I will talk about photography since it is my area of interest. Whilst there were some wonderful works on show, William Tsui, James Morris and many others, and the work generally showed diversity and quality of execution that impressed me a lot. I was stunned to see inclusion of a number of works that clearly had not been realised successfully. There was an image of an industrial interior that clearly had been printed at a size that was larger than the size that the digital file would allow, and whilst a pleasing image, it was spoilt by poor printing. This and a small number of other images that were problamatic in their execution I found affected the work placed next to it and clouded the overall impression of the quality of the show.

    I should make it clear that this is not a matter of taste, I like work that subverts conventions and uses unusual techniques, even in a very low-fi way, to produce work that is organic and textural. The work I am talking about clearly was not realised as you would expect for a show of this quality.

    My suggestion is that St Davids Hall use some of the expert help that might be available in Wales in judging photography to fine tune an otherwise good selection of work. We have a European Centre for Photographic research and other academics at University of Wales Newport, Ffotogallery and numerous experts in the field available in Wales and perhaps using experts of this kind would raise the standard of the photography that appears to have 'slipped through the net'. I think doing this might attract entrants who might be put off by this aspect of an otherwise successful show.

    It is my hope that this critique will be taken in the spirit of encouragement in which it is written. I feel very positive about the show and hope that my comments can help in some way maintain a quality that is generally very high, with a few 'oversights'

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