Iwan Bala

Euro-Celtic Visual Art Exhibition

Iwan Bala and John Uzzell Edwards

Wales will be presenting two exhibitions for the Year of Wales 2008. Both artists previously exhibited in the Euro-Celtic Art exhibition in the group show Ysbryd / Spirit in 2001.

Iwan Bala


As an artist and writer, Iwan Bala has always explored cultural identity and the way it exists in permanent negotiation and flux with the wider world. His work makes use of recurring motifs such as the twin faced Janus, a Romano-Celtic deity that unites past, present and future in it’s gaze. The islands that appear are symbolic of idealized and mythic places, always just on the horizon (Gwales from the tales of the Mabinogi being a model). A simple boat, a coracle perhaps (but also a cauldron of rebirth) provides a means to navigate over these new ‘Mappa Mundi’ charts that the artist creates.

The use of words, in several languages but predominantly Welsh, and his many collaborations with Cymraeg poets, layers another dimension to the work, linking with other minority cultures globally and to contemporary political concerns. The influences are diverse; mediaeval cartography, post-colonialism, political cartoons, myths and legends old and new, literature, art history… and travel.

"I think of these drawings, assemblages and paintings as diagrammatic field-notes, a mapping of my particular cultural identity. It appears as an island under threat, connected to a much larger and troubled world"

Iwan Bala was born in north Wales and has been a practicing artist based in Cardiff since 1984. In 1990 he was artist in residence at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and he completed an M.A. in Fine Art at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff in 1993. He was a Founder member of The Artists’ project, an artist led international group that organized art events in New York, Poland, Spain, Israel and Wales. As a project manager for Cywaith Cymru he encouraged collaborative work between artist, performers, writers and poets. He is a senior lecturer in the School of Creative Arts and Humanities, Trinity College, Carmarthen.

Iwan has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad and his work is in the collections of The National Library of Wales, National Museum, Wales, National Museum of Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, Museum of Modern Art Wales, Contemporary Art Society for Wales and many private collections. He has been a selector for the Mostyn Open and National Eisteddfod and is currently Chair of the Visual Art committee for Cardiff Eisteddfod 2008.

Publications include, Certain Welsh Artists, Custodial Aesthetics in Contemporary Welsh Art (Seren), 1999, Here + Now (Seren) 2005, Groundbreaking, The Artist in the Changing Landscape (Seren) 2005 and Hon, Ynys y Galon (Gomer) 2007. He lectures widely on contemporary art in Wales, and presents television art documentaries for S4/C, the most recent Bilbao, Belfast and Bala investigating public art in relation to community and identity.

John Uzzell Edwards

The Welsh Quilts

John Uzzell Edwards’ work is to do with Pure Painting, not picture making, and has been driven by an exploration of early Welsh forms: his earlier work was inspired by Celtic crosses and stone inscriptions, medieval floor tiles, and the lettering and carpet pages of holy books and old manuscripts like the Black Book of Carmarthen and St Teilo’s Gospels.

These intricately patterned and lettered documents have now led him to the more recent and domestic past: "I was brought up using Welsh quilts and blankets, but it is only lately that I have discovered Log Cabin quilts and I have been amazed by their aesthetic quality. Most museums keep them in dark places, but they demand to be seen, and this has given such a purpose and energy to my new work.

One quilt I saw from the 1820’s reminds me very much of a Jackson Pollock painting. Other early quilts from Wales remind me of paintings by Mark Rothko, with their flat areas of colour.

I have been working from these nineteenth century quilts for the past three years, with one purpose – to show them for the Year of the Welsh at the Interceltic Festival at Lorient."

John Uzzell Edwards was born in the mining village of Deri in the Rhymney Valley, in South Wales and now lives and works in the mountains north of Swansea. He has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and his work is represented in many public and private collections in the United Kingdom and abroad.

He was awarded the Granada Arts Fellowship by York University in 1966 and in 1968 received the Prix de Rome at the British School in Rome. In 1986 he was Artist in Residence at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea and was made an honorary member of York University.

John was granted an Arts Council of Wales scholarship to study Celtic art in Europe, and has twice been awarded the main painting prize at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. He formed a new group of Welsh painters ‘Ysbryd/Spirit Wales in 1998.

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