Meet the artist reclaiming Welsh history with a modern twist
With a Twitter bio that reads: ‘Self taught artist with a passion for art, Wales, Welsh history and independence’, Nicola Large’s art represents a very contemporary Wales through the eyes of the past.
Her most recent work featuring empowered Welsh women in traditional costume, has gained her many plaudits – and commissions.
The peak of her stove hat-loving artwork recently came when one of her paintings featuring the tagline: ‘Welsh girls are like normal girls but cooler’ went viral.
“I’m overwhelmed by the lovely feedback I receive especially regarding my Welsh pieces as its very close to my heart,” says the Wrexham-based artist. “I really can’t get enough of painting them at the moment as I see this is so important to our future and what was our past.”
Tackling subjects that touch on the struggles and triumphs of Wales’ heritage and history, her quirky modern approach as seen her breath new life into subjects such as the drowning of Tryweryn, the Welsh Not, and those Welsh tropes that could previously be seen as tired cliches – coal mining, harps and stove hats.
However in the spirit of reinvention and in Nicola’s expert hands her art tells a story that every person in Wales should be aware of – our own history.
“Being so passionate about Wales I like to leverage topics where throughout our history we seem to have been treated unfairly or maybe even seen by others as a threat,” she says. “I guess more of a gentle reminder of our past with pieces based on the Welsh Not, where I and more recently my children were not in catchment areas to attend a Welsh speaking school. This is an example where I feel something was taken away from many of us.
“I would love to be able to use the Welsh language more in text and speech as this is still a big gap for me.
“Ultimately,I want to raise awareness of things that affect us through my art,” she adds. “Helping others understand the suppression the Welsh people have faced over time with the view of things being more equal or even achieving independence.”
She was thrilled to donate several pieces to a local school to hopefully help inform and educate the next generation.
“I donated some pieces to a local school of Merched Beca and Owain Glyndwr which was used in art and history lessons which to me were very rewarding, hopefully the children found them interesting and inspirational,” she says.
Creating quirky thought provoking artwork is key to Nicola’s artistic vision and passion – “My subject matter is wide-ranging and I refuse to fit into categories,” she states, as way of a mission statement.
“Art has always been a passion for me, but more so in recent years, where now I seem to have more free time.
“I find it a way to both relax and escape. What started as and is still very much a hobby, has just got out of control,” she laughs. “Some evenings I will create piece after piece. I’m definitely inspired here by Picasso and his drive for painting.”
Ask Nicola if she is reclaiming the traditional Welsh dress and updating it with a modern twist, she pauses, before answering.
“I guess maybe that’s how some of the pieces are perceived. I think maybe this is more an expression of the diversity in Wales with so many different nationalities and identities, so yes maybe you are right.”
She is also palpably very passionate about the art scene in Wales.
“There are a wealth of talented Welsh artists out there,” says Nicola. “I think my style is quite quirky and thought provoking, that’s not to say there’s not other quirky artists in Wales, I see it more of a Welsh collective where we all have our uniqueness however we express it.
“Most importantly to me is that I love what I do and If any of my work inspires someone to pick up a paint brush, pencil or to read up on Welsh history I will have made a difference.
“I’m inspired everyday by the different people I meet, talk and listen to and believe we can all make small changes, leading to big differences.”
You can view Nicola’s artwork at various locations around north Wales, in galleries, shops, restaurants and in the main entrance of Wrexham Hospital.