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Culture

Niki Pilkington’s Welsh homecoming brings biggest ever exhibition

14 May 2022 4 minutes Read
Images by Niki Pilkington

Lowri Llewelyn

Niki Pilkington will return to Wales this Sunday for her biggest ever exhibition – specifically, the Llŷn, back where it all started. The exhibition will take place at Oriel Plas Glyn Y Weddw, Llanbedrog.

Having lived in Paris, New York and LA for the best part of a decade, she explains, ‘Glyn y Weddw has such a special place in my heart – it was the first place that trusted me with an exhibition after I graduated in 2009.’

Following the completion of her degree in fashion illustration in 2009, Niki returned from London and took a part-time job at the Oriel to ponder her next move.

Many of the gallery’s volunteers were retired and had spent their lives on the peninsula, re-exposing Niki to the traditional words, phrases and proverbs which became a hallmark of her future work and launched a career as an illustrator-cum-influencer.

‘I only had the work I’d done at college to show them!’ she continues. ‘That was a momentous exhibition for me; it made me believe I could do this as a career. I’ve wanted another exhibition with them for so long… This is a homecoming.’

The 65-piece exhibition, titled Dathliad (Celebration), will run from May 15th until July 10th. ‘It’s first and foremost a celebration of the Welsh language through my eyes. It’s also a celebration of my returning to Wales, coming out of Covid, and being pregnant!’

Statement pieces

How does this exhibition compare with her first?

“I love looking back at stuff I did then. I always learn from it. I had more time then as social media wasn’t really a thing, and my career was only just getting started, so I’d spend days and weeks obsessing over each piece, whereas now the temptation is to finish up quickly so I can share it online.

“Social media adds an extra pressure that didn’t exist all those years ago. Looking back reminds me to slow down and enjoy the process, because ultimately those are the pieces I’m most proud of.”

As well as the detailed interpretations of young women which won her such devotion from her key demographic—’And neon, obviously!’—the exhibition will include a wall of painted typography pieces.

“Many are idioms and phrases I’d be reminded of while speaking with family and friends from abroad that instantly transported me back to Wales; there’s one that says ‘Rargol’, which I think is such a brilliant word!

“These are statement pieces designed to make people smile. What I’ve done with that wall is made it more affordable as not everyone can ordinarily afford original art.”

Glyn Y Weddw is one of 50 galleries in Wales participating in the Collectorplan scheme which allows UK residents to pay a 10% deposit and pay off a loan over a maximum of 12 months.

Supportive

Niki hopes this exhibition will prove just as popular as the first.

“When the Oriel asked which time of year I’d like to exhibit, I asked for a combination of term time and half term.

“So many schools came to see my first exhibition and I’m hoping they’ll come again – it’s so nice seeing them study my work and creating their own interpretations. I really hope it inspires local students to choose art as a career.”

She finishes, “I was always so surprised when I moved away that people would continue buying my work.

“Welsh people in particular are so supportive of each other, and it meant so much to me. This exhibition is a thank you to the fans who’ve supported me from the very beginning.”

Visit the exhibition between May 15th and July 10th and more details can be found here


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