A graduate and a staff member from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David have been successful at the Swansea Open 2021 art exhibition at the Glynn Vivian Gallery in Swansea.

Swansea Open is an annual art exhibition held at the Glynn Vivian gallery. The exhibition is open to people living and working in the SA1-SA9 region and can be from any background. Each year the selection is made by a different panel of invited selectors which encourages diverse viewpoints annually. This year, Caroline Thraves, UWTSD Swansea College of Art’s Academic Director for Art and Media, and Professor Uzo Iwobi OBE, and an Honorary Fellow of the University were the invited selectors.

Caroline Thraves said,

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to select the work at the Glynn Vivian. I know Swansea’s full of artistic talent, and many of that talent comes from the Swansea College of Art. It’s fantastic to see the diverse range of art that’s here from 3D art to painting and drawings, and it was hard to select a winner amongst these entries.”

The first prize was awarded to Suzanne Callen, a member of UWTSD’s Student Services department (specifically working in Art and Design) for her oil on canvas painting named ‘Sabina’. The work really stood out for the judges, and Caroline Thraves added that there was something in the way that the portrait looked at them, through the eyes that told a story, and they were really drawn to that.

Suzanne Callen said,

“I entered the competition with the hope that my painting would be selected to be hung. It was a total surprise when my name was announced for the first prize, it was very emotional. I feel this award has given me the confidence boost needed to continue on my creative journey and validates the skills and abilities we have in Students Services.”

Suzanne is a true advocate of lifelong learning, and before lockdown she had attended an introductory oil painting course at UWTSD. During lockdown, Suzanne re-found her love of drawing portraits, and managed to create over 120 charcoal portraits and started using different materials such as ink, watercolour, pastels and finally oil painting as her artistic development continued.

The winning work ‘Sabina’ 2020 was inspired by traditional artists techniques which are used in a contemporary way.

She adds: “There is a lot of reflectivity at the time in this painting and my need to have that connection with the face to look at them in detail rather than the virtual. Sabina looks out from the canvas as we were looking out of our windows at what was happening in the world. The grey background almost oppressively hangs heavy around the individual. The plain background with hint of light source has now become a signature of my work. The floating frame creates the impression that there is more than the surface to survey and draws the focus to the ‘boxed-in’. The painting captures a moment in time when senses and emotions were heightened, and my own creativity was re-unleashed. The situation of working from home gave me the opportunity to release this, it has allowed me to use my time productively not just for work but for my own creative self-development. I’m on a journey which many people have followed and am loving the process as it unfolds.”

Sabina – 1st prize winner in the Swansea Open 2021 Art Exhibition

In addition to this competition, Kate Bell and Anne Price- Owen, from the Friends of the Glynn Vivian were invited to select a winner for the ‘Friends Award for Swansea Open 2021’. The prize was awarded this year to UWTSD Fine Art graduate Owain Sparnon for his work ‘Trwodd draw yr wyf yn edrych/ I’m looking through you.’

Owain’s work was described by Kate Bell as being: “very ambitious which is abstract in its nature, but shows huge depth and gravitas, a lot of colours, a lot of mixed media. The way that he has created the composition, the marks on the canvas really caught our eye.”

The winning piece, ‘I’m looking through you’, was a painting created as part of a series of works for Owain’s degree show. It’s one of five paintings of that scale and it was made in response to things Owain comes across daily – things such as photographs, landscapes, reflective lighting, and sounds. Layering, unravelling, intertwining and decontextualising an image were crucial to the process. The work is a combination of paint, collage, and sculpture as Owain is intrigued by the boundary between painting and sculpture. The painting reveals recollections, thoughts, secrets, and experiences of his subconscious through colour, remnants, texture and the unknown.

Owain said,

“Winning this award is a great privilege and I am delighted to be exhibiting my work at the Glynn Vivian Gallery alongside talented artists from the Swansea area. I have been very fortunate to have several opportunities since graduating which have really helped me to continue to develop my artwork – I won the Josef Herman Foundation Award in memory of Carolyn Davies a few months ago, my work was recently exhibited at Mission Gallery as part of the Artist in the World exhibition and since October, I have worked as an artist at Swansea College of Art after being successful in the Artists Benevolent Fund’s Step Change Fellowship Programme. To be able to continue working at Swansea College of Art, and to have a studio for myself where I can experiment and develop my artwork, is an invaluable experience.”

Swansea College of Art Lecturer, Gwenllian Beynon said,

“I am delighted to see Owain succeed and get credit for his work by winning an award at the Glynn Vivian open exhibition so soon after graduating in the Summer from the Fine Art course. Owain works his practice with a focus on working by focusing on printing and mixed media. When he was a student Owain studied a little through the medium of Welsh, and it is clear from seeing his career develop that that is important to him. It’s great to see our graduates succeed and be known for their art outside the College of Art and the University.”

Professor Sue Williams, Programme Manager of Fine Art: Studio Site & Context said,

“It is excellent news that Owain has won this award and we, the fine Art staff in Swansea, would like to congratulate him. Owain deserves this acknowledgement as his work is authentic and original. Owain’s work reveals a great passion and commitment to the language of material and surface, and I am in no doubt we will see more of Owain’s exciting and provocative work in the future.”

University of Wales Trinity Saint David