Art from Wales at the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice
Tim Davies was selected by Arts Council of Wales to represent Wales at the 54th International Art Exhibition, at a new location for Wales at the Biennale, Santa Maria Ausiliatrice: the Ludoteca in Castello.
Davies, one of Wales’s leading artists, works in a range of different materials, including, found imagery, sculptural installation, collage, framed works, and film. He is a memorable image-maker. Often the images are wrought by painstaking and meticulous, repetitive labour, honouring ethics of work, production and systematic interventions.
Known for his installations that question power structures and globalization, Davies once returned a Victorian parquet floor salvaged in a reclamation yard in Swansea to the rainforest of Belize where the wood was originally sourced and cut down by slaves. It was a signal piece of his particular layered and serious art - at one and the same time a conceptual act, combined with formalism in the re-laid floor on the forest ground, and then an image to ponder as the floor is reclaimed by nature. These are acts of homage, of artifice and of politics combined.
Born in west Wales, Davies has established a significant profile in Wales and beyond. An Arts Council of Wales Creative Wales Award recipient in 2008 he was short-listed for the inaugural Artes Mundi International Visual Arts Prize in 2004 and won the Gold Medal in Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 2003. Recent solo exhibitions include Kilkenny Shift (2009) at the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland, Seeriad (2010) at Kunstihoone Galerii, Tallinn, Estonia and 50th Year to Heaven (2011) at Chapter, Cardiff in Wales.
The exhibition in Venice was curated by London based Tom Rowland of Tom Rowland Fine Art, a long-standing supporter and collaborator with Davies. Tom Rowland states that:
"Tim Davies’ work makes a huge visual impact, and is admired for its ability to distil conceptual concerns with formal cohesion, in whichever medium he chooses for his pieces."
In 2003 Cerith Wyn Evans memorably announced Wales at this foremost Biennale of Art, throwing a searchlight up into the night sky. Since then Wales has presented its artists on Giudecca at four Biennale. The2011 exhibition from Wales was held at Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in the Castello area, centrally located between the Giardini and the Arsenale, which attracted larger visitor numbers and raised the profile of the Welsh exhibition at the Biennale. A former convent now used as a local recreational centre, The Ludoteca, as it is commonly known, comprises of a former chapel and sacristy with their cool baroque ecclesiastical interiors, as well as a complement of contemporary rooms. This suite of spaces allowed Davies the freedom to show work in a range of different media, integral to the way he works.
Although the location is central, Wales continued to operate from the powerful perspective of the periphery. The Arts Director of Arts Council of Wales, Commissioner of the exhibition, David Alston said:
"If one of the undercurrents of the 54th Biennale is how artists are the visionaries and the crystallizers of our consciousness in a world characterised often by a superficial and apparently inescapable sense of irony, then Davies has been offering this counterbalancing serious take on the world for some time, and inviting greater acknowledgement for his art’s intent. It is not surprising that this perspective comes from Wales and its historic position."
The exhibition was complemented by a publication with commissioned new writing from poet and author Owen Sheers and Director of INIVA Tessa Jackson as well as an internship and invigilator scheme that provides professional development for young artists and curators from Wales.
This opportunity remains the prime international context for contemporary art and raises Wales' cultural profile as a place for many emerging and highly respected artists. Wales' presence at the Biennale is vital to give a platform for visual art from Wales on an international stage while also reflecting back into Wales through related initiatives such as the internship and invigilator programme, travel grants through Wales Arts International for artists to visit the Biennale and educational resources as well as talks, links, and where appropriate, a re-staging of the exhibition produced for the Biennale back in Wales.
Wales Arts International worked with Mererid Velios, a member of the artist’s team creating Wales’ presence at the Biennale, to create outreach and auxilliary activities around the exhibition. Travel awards (deadline passed) were announced at the end of March 2011. A publication to promote the visual arts sector in Wales to international contacts has also been released, for furthe rinformation please click here. Further projects are also being designed to build on realtionships instigated with international curators.
The exhibition from Wales at the 54th International Art Exhibition was supported by Arts Council of Wales and its grant in aid from the Welsh Government. Davies’s participation and aspects of the production of new work were supported by Swansea Metropolitan University.
For further information, please visit the Venice Bienalle website at:
For a summary of the opening weekend, by Wales Arts International's Co-Director, Harry McIver, please click here or follow the link opposite.