Neale Howells

Neale Howells

Imaging Wales

It is difficult to imagine working conditions less propitious for creativity than those of Neale Howells. In the back garden of his house in Neath, he works in a damp and narrow shed which is at once studio and store. If ever one were to advance the argument that physical privation is necessarily a prerequisite conducive to the production of compelling work, then Howells would be a prime example of it. He is a wild and roaring artist (if one whose bark is much worse than his bite) and his roaring is seen at its most robust in his paintings and in their frequent hair-raising titles. There is a definite sense of an Outsider sensibility and probably one deliberately courted, but what is incontrovertible is that he is producing works of great confidence and power, big, in all senses of the word. He is a superb marksman and paint manipulator. His ground is generally hardboard, or other found material, frequently cobbled together in what seems a ramshackle way, which he covers with sprayings and graffiti-like scrawling and scumblings, usually in household paint. He is not abashed by this and approaches the whole with immense confidence and skill. His works are extremely rich and it is surprising that he succeeds in this despite using a very limited colour range.

In Neale Howells we have a very serious artist and a great enemy of all that is pretentious and mimsy in Welsh culture today. He is not for the faint-hearted but of course meat and drink to the media, which delight to wallow in his supposed outrages, for his work is not even imperfectly understood. However, he will eventually be respected, as the media come to do all such artists, when he is (which will be soon) a commercial success.

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