Articles by Huw David Jones
Back in the 1950s, the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council (forerunner to today’s ACW) launched an annual open competition to showcase the very best in contemporary Welsh painting and sculpture. Held each year at the National Museum of Wales, these popular exhibitions became the launch-pad for a generation of celebrated Welsh artists, including Brenda Chamberlain, Ernest Zobole and Kyffin Williams.
The scheme began to peter out during the 1960s. To the followers of the then dominant paradigm of Modernism, national art was parochial and regressive; artists were instead encouraged to be ‘internationalist’ by working with the universal language of abstraction. But in recent years, there has been a revival in exhibitions of Welsh painting and sculpture, reflecting the renewed interest in art linked to the cultural particularities of a people and place, not to mention the growing sense of national self-confidence in post-devolution Wales.
The Welsh Artist of Year 2008 at St. David’s Hall is one of the clearest example of this revived exhibition format. Now in its eighth year, the competition – open to artists working in Wales or Welsh-born artists living the UK – has gained a strong reputation in the arts world. More than 500 entries were submitted this year including work by some of the nation’s best young talent such as Neale Howells, Philippa Lawrence and Eleri Mills. For curator Ruth Cayford, “the competition has come of age…. The quality of work we have selected is very high”.
£2,000 prize-money is up for grabs this year, with additional awards for the best painting, sculpture, drawing, photograph, applied art, print and student of the year. The judges, who include the distinguished narrative painter Kevin Sinnott, will announce the winner on Saturday, June 22. St. David’s Hall is doing a great cultural service by promoting the art of Wales (something I feel more Welsh galleries should do). Hopefully it will be a chance to spot the Kyffin’s and Zobole’s of the future.
The Welsh Artist of the Year 2008 exhibition is at the St David’s Hall, Cardiff, from Sat 22 Jun to Sat 26 Jul 2008.
This post was originally published by Buzz magazine.