WALES INTERNATIONAL YOUNG ARTIST AWARD TAKES THE COUNTRY BY STORM..

Last week I was lucky enough to receive an invite to the Wales International Young Artist Awards.  The event was organised and carried out by The British Council Wales, and if last month’s incredibly successful and inspiring Takeover Cardiff was anything to go by, I knew I was in for a treat.

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The awards were held at the Radisson Blu hotel in Cardiff; a fantastic venue in my opinion.  I’d not visited the hotel before, and was immediately impressed by the lavish décor and various bars and rooms.  Kicking off with a champagne reception and delicious canapés, the room quickly started filling with arts enthusiasts, friends and family and of course the talented nominees.

I love the atmosphere at arts events; it’s a wonderful feeling to be in a room with so many like-minded individuals.  I find it inspiring, and the WIYAA was no exception.  Everyone was milling around, chatting and enjoying the delectable treats on offer, whilst the nominees nervously awaited the big announcement.  It was glamorous, exciting and tense!

After about an hour we were led over to another conference room where a two piece band greeted us with a selection of smooth and lyrical songs.  Here the artist’s work was displayed prominently for guests to admire.  There were five nominees; a fine-art sculptor, a film-maker, two photographers and a ceramic designer.  The wide spectrum of work was fantastic to see and highlighted the different levels of art out there.  Every piece was exceptional with a beautiful story behind it.  I couldn’t believe that these young artists had produced such mature and intricate work.  Crowds were gathered by every piece, drinking it in and letting it take over.  You couldn’t help but notice the artist’s proud faces; what a fulfilling feeling it would be to see so many people blown away by your work!

Everyone was then directed towards the seating area, with nominees sat nervously in the front row alongside the (not so) frightening judges.  After an introduction by the Director of British Council Wales, Simon Dancey, it was time for the judges to take to the floor.

The judges talked through every piece with enthusiasm, knowledge and admiration.  First up was Eluned Glyn, a ceramic designer from Cardiff Metropolitan University.  Eluned created a selection of abstract tea-set pieces, taking her inspiration from the classic ceramic of the 20th and 21st century.  Her work echoed the old chinaware from her Grandmother’s dresser with a new lease of life from the re-creating process.  It was interesting, sophisticated and exuberated an effortless elegance.  It was chic but full of risks and daring.

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Next was Eugene Finnegan, a photographer from Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen.  Eugene’s work depicted the struggles felt by the new generation of adolescents told through a series of black and white images.  His pieces portrayed their attempts to fit in and understand the world they live in, where perceptions of ordinary are challenged on an endless basis by the hyper real portrayals of media.  Such a deep and meaningful topic was told poignantly with the simple but effective images.  You felt as if you were peering through a keyhole at an intimate moment; a perfect snapshot of reality.

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Following Eugene was Georgia Hall, a third year student of Fine Art Sculpture at Howard Gardens.  Her piece, titled ‘Conversations’, was a highly figurative form made from various materials; chicken wire, foam, concrete, cardboard, paper, tape, plaster, nylon rope and chair.  Georgia hoped that the interesting materials would entice the viewer closer to the sculpture, physically drawing them in so that they become a part of a momentary play, creating a visual narrative as if they are in conversation with a possible character.  It focused on presentation and the response of the viewer, whilst exploring the properties of materials with regards to weight scale and balance.  It was a form of art I had never experienced before.  But the mature subject matter and barrier breaking approach enthralled me; it was an exciting and an extremely communicative piece of art.

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Next up was Richard L. Pask from Caerphilly, a highly experienced individual in the film industry.  His piece of short film reflected his own stories, and the stories of the people and places around him.  It was beautifully cut and attention-grabbing, with the flair and technique of a film-maker with years of professional experience.

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Finally we were introduced to the work of Andrew Morris, a photographic artist based in Swansea.   His touching piece “What’s left behind” invited the audience to contemplate one of life’s biggest questions… what is left behind?  The interiors depicted in each of Andrew’s images belonged to a number of empty houses that had been put on the market with the intention to be sold following the death of the owner.  The images were so striking and emotional, including possessions that had belonged to the deceased owners.  The powerful photographs were almost eerie, reflecting the sad remains of a person’s life once they are gone.  Again, so simple but commanding, Andrew’s work left the audience with real food for thought.

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So with a metaphoric drum-roll, the grand envelope was handed to the judges.  The nominees took an audible deep breath, whilst the families clung to the edge of their seats.  Even I had butterflies!  This work was clearly so important to these five individuals, and their nerves must have been sky high.

“And the winner is… Andrew Morris!” And with those six words, I was subjected to the most raucous and excited celebration of a proud Mother I have ever seen!  Andrew’s family were in tears; it was the most amazing thing to watch!  As Andrew proudly took to the front to collect his prize the feeling of pride was palpable.  And rightly so!  Andrew will have his work projected on an international platform through the British Council Wales network of offices in six continents and over 100 countries!  And of course, a cash prize of £500!

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These awards were a fantastic move by the British Council Wales.  It is so important that young artists are given this platform to promote their work, and to be awarded for their talent and dedication.  As always with these events, I left feeling so inspired and proud to be a young person in Wales.  I cannot commend the British Council Wales enough for their devotion to the arts and young individuals; I look forward to all their future events!

Take a look at Andrew’s award-winning work here.

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