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Review: Lle Celf Art and the Salon de Refuses exhibitions

14 Aug 2022 6 minute read
Sean Vicary. Photo by kind permission of Y Lle Celf

Sara Rhoslyn Moore 

Y lle Celf was back after three years with a new team, new ideas and an exciting vibe.

This year all the artists who were not selected for the annual exhibition at the National Eisteddfod were given the opportunity to exhibit their work at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre in the ‘Salon de Refuses’ exhibition.

This is an idea inspired by French artists who protested against the harsh jury decisions at the Salon Paris exhibition,1863.

Both exhibitions were worthwhile. Hopefully this will be continued in the future of Y Lle Celf, as all art is subjective; it certainly gave us a new experience.

It is puzzling and disappointing that it had not been given a Welsh title regardless of where the inspiration came from; the Eisteddfod is a celebration of the culture and language of Wales.

It was a missed opportunity for Y Lle Celf to truly own this evolving move forward.

It is wise to look beyond Wales for inspiration but it’s wiser to develop found inspirations and ideas to fit our own culture, strengthening it so that we stand on our own two feet.

Natalia Dias. Photo by kind permission of Y Lle Celf


On entering Y Lle Celf five mesmerising porcelain bust sculptures pulled you in. The green glazed sculptures were beautifully displayed on oak blocks, some half burnt placed on unpainted OSB Plinths that surprisingly complemented the work.

Inspired by Greek and celtic mythology with links to the environment, they represent powerful and confident female warriors.

They captured the beauty and strength of mother nature and its ability of repetitive growth. The flowers of ‘Blodeuwedd’ in particular were executed with intricacy and this piece was chosen as CASW purchase prize.

The artist born in Portugal now living in Wales, Natalia Dias, also won the Gold Medal for Arts and Crafts and the People’s Choice Awards.

Gwenllian Llwyd Mamiaith. Photo by kind permission of Y Lle Celf


And there were real life warriors too; Gwenllian Llwyd’s ‘Mamiaith’, winner of the Ifor Davies Award.

The talking heads of women from the 1970s peaceful activist group, the Welsh Language Society recalling the selfless actions and sacrifices made in safeguarding the language by calling for equal status which led them to their imprisonment.

They were shown on old TV screens as though they were in a cell of their own.

A possible dying tradition and community is photographed in Zillah Bowes moonlight photography; they hold an eerie atmosphere.

A snapshot of stillness before life as it’s known changes.

Fears for the future of traditional farming, the culture, the changes creating biodiversity loss that sustains animal life, climate crisis, the effects of brexit and the economics.

Is it the end of decades of passing down traditional farming to the next generation?

Zillah Bowes Elinor ‘Rhiwnant’ & Alice. Photo by kind permission of Y Lle Celf


Winner of the Fine Art Gold Medal Sean Vicary’s altered version of Blodeuwedd, set in Dyfi Valley. The found objects animated on a background of filmed landscape is a response to Alan Garner’s 1960s cult novel, The Owl Service.

Perhaps the selectors should take note of the setting and seating in which they watch digital art when selecting, then think how the viewers are expected to experience the chosen works.

Walking in to mid showing is confusing; it remains to be an uncomfortable and frustrating experience.

Doomed Future

At the Salon des Refuses, David Garner’s ‘Wylo / Weeping’ hung above an old metal bath is a large print of Aneurin Bevan.The founder of the NHS from Tredegar, South Wales.

He is weeping and drying tears from his eyes.

Garner’s ability to get straight to the heart of his subject is astonishing; there is no need for any words with his work; it speaks for itself.

Garner has mastered his talent; he makes it look effortless. A timely and emotional art installation. It’s hard to fathom the possible doomed future facing our National Health Service.

‘Aberfan’ by Kathy Colebrook weighs heavy on the heart.

The horrific tragedy of the collapsed colliery spoil killing 144 people and 116 of them children evidently haunts the artist to this day.

The small scale art simply consisted of coal and graduate scrolls mixed together in a heap, a mass grave of lost futures, talents, hopes and dreams of who and what might have been.

David Garner Wylo -Weeping and Kathy Colebrook Aberfan. Photos Sara Rhoslyn Moore

Spirit of activism

Y Lle Celf is truly valuable, more so than most understand. It welcomes political art. There are countries in the world who condemn such acts, making it a crime and imprisoning such individuals who dare to do what is encouraged and awarded here.

The Ifor Davies Award, exists specifically for this fundamental expression of who we are and what we want as people and as a nation.

There was not enough art fitting this category of, ‘art that conveys the spirit of activism in the struggle for language, culture and politics in Wales’ on display at Y Lle Celf for a healthy competition.

It’s a valuable opportunity for our artistic expression, one that contributes to our nation in safeguarding our democracy in Wales.

It is truly needed as part of a healthy developing nation. It is no coincidence in comparison with other countries of minority languages that the Welsh language has not only survived but thrives.

The power of democracy is real.

There is an energy surrounding the attention given to the visual arts at the Eisteddfod of 2022 that feels different and promising for the future, and the social media coverage was excellent.

Is this the beginning of visual arts finally stepping out confidently from the shadows of all other arts of the National Eisteddfod?

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