Shani Rhys James is interviewed by Kim Howells in her studio, intercut with images of the artist's work both around the studio and as still photographs. She is introduced as Wales' best-known female artist, born in Australia to a Welsh father who came to Wales to work in the 1980s. They discuss how she often uses her own face as a frequently disconcerting image, though she doesn't think of it as her head and uses it in an attempt to get beyond a mask that people put up, especially women, who feel pressured to be beautiful and to be perfect. For Kim Howells, more than anyone he knows, she is an artist who uses signature colours and a limited palette. Shani feels that red is a powerful, primal colour, and uses it because her paintings are about contact, power and showing how strongly she feels things. She creates paintings to make people question themselves. Discussing the image of a child in a cot that she has painted, she explains that it is a metaphor and a symbol of a human condition about how we treat children - a little spirit, open, receptive, with a right to their existence and as much a human being as an adult.

First broadcast:
17 March 2011

Students could work in groups to discuss one of Shani Rhys James's paintings - the teacher could stick a colour postcard-sized image in the middle of an A3 or A2 piece of paper and give the group of students a list of questions to discuss. Students could jot down their answers around the painting - this develops observational skills, discussion and language/ literacy skills. Students could make self-portraits of themselves, starting by sketching in charcoal or pencil. Then move on to painting self-portraits of themselves, but only using a very limited palette and thinking about where they would want to be placed in their portrait.