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Thin Partitions - artist Ken Elias

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Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola Heywood Thomas | 11:48 UK time, Thursday, 22 October 2009

I'm looking forward this week to talking on Thursday's Radio Wales Arts Show to art historian Ceri Thomas about the work of the Glynneath artist Ken Elias.

As well as being a practising artist Ceri is an expert on the subject of Wales' visual culture since 1945 and the book he's edited on Elias' art is out to coincide with a major retrospective exhibition at the National Library in Aberystwyth.

It's a very apt time for a look back at Ken Elias' work to date as he'll turn 65 on November 9. The body of work spans photomontage from the 60s and 70s to recent paintings which all draw on Elias' memories of childhood and home. It was only the more recent paintings that I knew until I read Thin Partitions and I feel I understand Ken's inspirations and influences much more now.

He was born and grew up in Glynneath where the cinema at the Welfare Hall played a great part in his childhood due to the fact that he would accompany his Aunty Katy to her work as an usherette there. Those filmic images recur in his work even today.

From Glynneath Ken Elias went to study art in Cardiff and Newport at an exciting time for the visual arts and his work in collage, prints and photomontage show both the contemporary influence and that of the movies of his childhood.

When I went to interview Ken at his home last week, there were several paintings in progress in the studio. He told me he likes to work on more than one piece at a time and builds them up gradually.

He said he's delighted both with the retrospective exhibition (which will travel to the Royal Cambrian Academy and later to Aberdare next year) and with the book but stressed that there was plenty of work still to be created and that no-one should view the National Library exhibition as a complete summing up of his work.

That interview forms part of the Radio Wales Arts Show on Thursday 22 October when I'll be joined in the studio by Ceri Thomas.


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