Articles by Huw David Jones
Fifty years ago the pioneering Howard Roberts Gallery in Cardiff held what it claimed was the first Welsh exhibition of abstract art.
Four Welsh Painters/One Sculptor featured the work of Robert Alwyn Hughes, John Selway, Graham Bevan, Glyn Jones and Peter Nicholas – five artists from south Wales then studying in London. At a time when Welsh art exhibitions were fixated with sombre images of miners returning home from the pit or rain-soaked valley street scenes, here was a group of young radicals determined to break with tradition and capture instead the freedom and optimism of the Swinging Sixties with paintings inspired by American Abstract Expressionism.
Half a century on the group has been reunited for a fine new exhibition featuring work from their original show alongside more recent compositions.
Looking today at these early examples of modern Welsh art, one is struck at how fresh and vibrant they still feel. There is a great sense of confidence in the bold use of colour and abstract forms.
The more recent work seems sedate by comparison. That said, I was particularly impressed with Robert Alwyn Hughes’s enormous new collages, which combine images of personal significance with the iconography of religion and warfare.
While the group set out to ‘shock people into seeing that abstract art is alive in Wales’, their first exhibition went largely unnoticed. Given the contribution these five artists have made to modern Welsh art, this new show deserves wider recognition the second time around.
Four Plus One is at the Cynon Valley Gallery, Aberdare, till Sept 25, 2010.