Wales is famous for its long history of visual arts, but what is the current situation of emerging Welsh artists?
It was in a dis-used milk shed at the bottom of Llysworney, Wales with a herd of cows as neighbours. The concrete shed was bitterly cold in the winter and Peter felt the brunt of it with chill-blains as he started off working as a visual artist in Wales.
Back to the present, Bristol based Welsh artist Peter Kettle is now a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a member of the Royal Cambrian Academy (RCA).
Peter finds opportunities are there for local artists. He said: “The galleries in Wales are creating some fantastic shows in the face of people looking from the internet to find artistic inspiration. “
Not every young Welsh artist shares similar opinions. Rhys Aneurin, a Cardiff-based artist, finds the space is limited for artists and the council is not doing enough.
“It’s just a pity that Cardiff Council rarely prioritises arts or offers support for local artists to develop their work and put events on in a city, where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so.” Rhys said.
Many artists are faced with great competition of getting into exhibitions and the financial situation is another challenge when they try to make a living amid the competition, Rhys added.
“You get over the other by just keeping on working, sharing your work as much as you can, and trying meeting new people,” said Rhys. “ Most artists that I know have other jobs, and I think it’s really important not to feel less of an artist for having another job. Any artist would prefer to only do art. It’s not always possible.”
Although Rhys insists on having a MOMA to change the situation, he does not suggest putting a national museum of modern art in Cardiff or Swansea.
“There are really poor areas of Wales where this could make a massive difference. A third of Wales’ children live in poverty. We have to think about it in terms of inspiring a nation, not just making a city a cultural hub for art.”
Rhys believes that visual arts is great at engaging with communities and people of all ages, and it’s not all about up-market white gallery exhibitions. “Art is for everyone, and it can benefit people in many different ways.”
The art for everyone needs to be talked about. The lack of a discussion space leads to a loss of visibility for artists and their work.
Some local galleries including Albany Gallery make an effort in bringing new blood to Welsh visual arts and providing public venues for discussion. Albany Gallery once exhibited Peter’s works and helped him to promote his work.
The gallery chooses the emerging artists to exhibit their works because it thinks they will develop in time and possibly become better-known names in the art community, particularly in Wales, and Peter Kettle is a good example.
As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Peter is looking to set up cooperatives and collaborations with art societies, clubs and groups to introduce more events to celebrate public discussion of Arts in Wales like workshops.
Yet so many difficulties Welsh artists are encountering, they are attracted by the landscape of Wales and create visual arts inspired by the land.
“There is a younger contemporary landscape scene today.” Peter said.
The sublime mountains and lakes of the north, the castles, the winding coast line, the rolling hills and fiery industry of the south, the meandering waters of the River Wye, all of these sceneries become the sources of inspirations for artists.
For Peter, he is fascinated with Welsh history and went to Patagonia to follow the migration route of the Welsh Settlers in 2018, making works of the Port Talbot Steelworks, the Taff Railway Trial to the Brecon Beacons and North Wales Slate Industry.
Rhys who lives in Grangetown, was attracted by Wales’ multiculturism.
“I love hearing 4 or 5 different languages being spoken as I walk down Clare Road in the morning, and Welsh is one of those. I love Cardiff Market in the centre of town, where I feel Cardiff’s character and humour is truly there to be witnessed. I love the diversity of urban and green spaces that are right on my doorstep. I love the echoes and marks of old industry that are still to be seen here, even though they are becoming increasingly uncommon.”
When Peter recalls his experience 10 years ago, he did not expect what would happen in the future. After he finished the foundation course at Howard Gardens, he didn’t feel he was introduced to the grant schemes, art council contacts and art societies that he has discovered today.
“That was certainly a challenge at a young age gaining confidence and the foresight to see how I was going to pursue a career in the arts as a Visual Artist. Today, in Wales, that has changed dramatically.”