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Artist wins top prize with Dylan Thomas inspired painting

17 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Ugly lovely town Cisco in the studio.

Martin Shipton

Swansea-based artist Francisco Centofanti has won the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Open Prize 2024, with a painting inspired by the words of Dylan Thomas.

Taking the words “an ugly, lovely town … crawling, sprawling … by the side of a long and splendid curving shore. This sea-town was my world”, as the inspiration for his work, he created an atmospheric overview of the town, illuminated by a transcendent light.

Ever-changing light

Francisco, who is married to Swansea-born Lydia, and has a young daughter, Elke, aged three, is a familiar figure in Swansea, battling the elements as he paints outdoors in all weathers, capturing the ever-changing light sweeping over the sea and hills.

He said: “When I first visited Swansea, I was blown away by the bay, and the light on the water, and the fact that this changes constantly. It really is the best place to be a landscape painter. The light inspired my Lumière series of paintings where I make sketches on location, often on the coast, and then create the painting in my studio.”

Francisco has been a professional artist for more than 20 years, since graduating from the Florence Academy of Art, Italy. His work hangs on the walls of collectors from San Francisco to Stockholm, and he counts The Who frontman Roger Daltrey and life peer, the former MP, Don Foster (Baron Foster of Bath), among his fans.

He describes his style as a fusion of classical techniques and modern inspiration. As well as landscapes, he applies his skills to portraiture, and undertakes regular commissions. His talent was recognised when he became a BP Portrait Award finalist – and was part of a subsequent exhibition at the Royal Portrait Gallery.

Royal Portrait Society

He was also awarded the Carrol Foundation Award by the Royal Portrait Society – for a painting of a then 90-year-old Sir Wilfred Thesiger, the legendary late explorer and writer.

Following graduation, Francisco honed his craft in New York – he describes himself as “swashbuckling” around galleries in the city, showing his portfolio with great success.

Taking inspiration from Edward Hopper’s nightlife scenes, such as the 1942 masterpiece, Nighthawks, he produced late-night scenes of his own. Having been immersed in classical traditions, he also wanted to explore ultramodern themes, with abstract paintings that emanate light and content, showing his underlying masterful skill and experience as an artist.

Francisco said: “Even a bleak cityscape can have an intense beauty of its own, when light and shadow illuminate the urban structures.”

He also spent time in Japan and Argentina and lived in London for a decade. Having met his wife, Lydia Hughes, and the birth of their daughter, Elke, the family settled in his wife’s hometown, Swansea.

Francisco describes painting as a very intense experience, and often an introspective one. He also feels the need to keep evolving and challenging himself.

He cites the famous David Bowie quote: “Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

On the edge

He explained: “I like to be on the edge of my comfort zone. Constant striving and exploration keeps my work alive and vibrant.”

In awarding Ugly Lovely Town first place, the judges, Dr Zehra Jumabhoy, History of Art lecturer at Bristol University and Alan Whitfield of Arts Cymru, said they chose Francisco’s painting because “from the dark shadows there is an amazing radiance and warmth that bathes the painting and you can almost feel the undulating waves. It also references a long ‘art tradition’ very skilfully, representing the truth of a landscape beyond photography.”

Francisco Centofanti’s Ugly Lovely Town can be seen at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea until Sunday, May 19, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm. Francisco also welcomes visits to his Swansea studio by appointment. Call 07434 953240 or look up

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5 months ago

Beautiful painting, congratulations Francisco!

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