Exploring the art scene in and around Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth Arts Centre Photo - Tomos Nolan

Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Photo – Tomos Nolan

ABERYSTWYTH Arts Centre and the National Library of Wales are likely the most well-known institutes in the town to host a multitude of art events, and these are always of a very high standard. Current exhibitions at the Arts Centre include the BP Portrait Award exhibition and the ‘Britain From Above’ exhibition; featuring aerial perspectives of Britain’s key landscapes and buildings. In the summer, the Centre will play host to the annual ‘International Ceramics Festival’, a major event in the ceramic arts calendar. It’s not all dainty teapots and vases either; you can witness real ceramicists exploring the gritty earthiness of this art form, with kilns built and firing demonstrations. Meanwhile, the National Library of Wales recently had an exhibition on the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, whilst currently on view are painted works by the highly regarded Welsh artist Shani Rhys James. The Library, as is evidenced, often seeks to express the best of Welsh art and artists, so is a great place if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Welsh artistic culture.

Further down into town sits the volunteer led ‘Gas Gallery’, which opened in the summer of 2013 and has given the opportunity to both local and non-local artists to display their work in a professional exhibition space. The Gallery not only displays contemporary exhibitions, but incorporates into and accompanies these with live performance pieces, dramatic storytelling and art workshops. For a small space, it has really packed a great deal of fantastic and intimate events into its calendar and, although sadly closing in September 2015, it has been a valuable and memorable asset to the Aberystwyth art scene. Be sure to check out the fantastic range of events at Gas Gallery before its closure; these include ‘The Open Art exhibition’, which opened on May 9th and runs until June 20th; the ‘Surrealist Salon’, which occurs frequently and is based upon the surrealist artists’ parlour games; as well as ‘Stories by Gaslight’, which provides an evening of storytelling and rich folklore, all intertwined with music.

Near the seafront sits the Ceredigion Museum, which displays mostly local historical artifacts, including an impressive collection of old paintings. These beautiful paintings largely depict the rural locations and seascapes of Ceredigion, building upon its cultural history as a seafaring area. Certainly, no matter how old you are, it is practically impossible not to appreciate the striking displays, housed in what was originally a two tier balcony theatre. The museum is hosting an exhibition, ‘On Board’, until June 28th, as well as the exhibition ‘Sail Away’, beginning May 22nd and finishing August 2nd. The first features a collection of these paintings, whilst the second consists of artifacts and photographs expressing this seafaring history.

Of course, there is also Aberystwyth University’s own School of Art, of which I’ve been a student for nearly four years now. Not only is it the university’s resident department for all Fine Art and Art History students, but is an art gallery and museum collection in its own right. The gallery hosts exhibitions from both local and non-local artists, as well as the teaching staff, who are also art practitioners. Every May, all third year Fine Art students take part in a final year exhibition, which opens this year on May 16th and is displayed throughout the building. This is a fantastic event that promotes the up and coming artistic alumni of the university. Certainly, for me, it is a privilege to have seen some of my best friends get the chance to display the hard work of a three year degree.

Another mention of interest is the Museum of Modern Art, housed in Machynlleth, which plays host to some impressive exhibitions of Welsh art and artists. Current exhibitions include ‘Bron Yr Aur’, a collection of painted works by American artist Jim Stallings, depicting the eponymous cottage near Machynlleth. Rock fans take note, for the idyllic cottage painted was the childhood holiday cottage of one Mr Robert Plant. It was in this isolated cottage hidden in the depths of the hills around Machynleth, to which Plant and the other members of Led Zeppelin retreated in 1970. It was widely thought to have left a lasting impression upon the band; soon after, they wrote the game-changing album Led Zeppelin III.