neale howells

A.i.R. | Introducing Neale Howells

Wales Arts Review introduces our artist in residence for August, the “bad boy of Welsh art”, Neale Howells… in his own words.

if theres anybody who hasn’t heard of me before now it’s because you’ve had your head in the sand or you just had better things to do with your life other than enjoy the visual arts… or perhaps it’s because you’re young… i know: mouthy already, eh…!?

i got involved in art way back in 1985, when i went back to neath college and stumbled back into this subject… a lot of time has passed… ok, feet up please… first there was ‘A’ level at neath tech… then bath college of art and then, well, a couple of interviews for the slade until london came calling and where i am now… of course inbetween all of that there was the creation of fake news… the fictious galleries and reviews for magazines and supplements… and then of course the inevitable ‘my own death’… plus the building up of an arts following from around wales… decorate around this work with a world famous welsh band, film director and now welsh fashion designer at london fashion week and hopefully we’ll have a lot to say and discuss during our Wales Arts Review artist in residency… lucky you… ha..!

and that’s another thing, in case you hadn’t noticed… i say ‘we’ or ‘our’ a lot… why is that..? well, i have always been uncomfortable saying ‘my’ or ‘i’… not literally… but the idea that the work we create is solely me… it also helps distributing the blame to if all goes tits up… ha… but i have always seen being creative as part of something bigger than myself… it takes more than one person… for instance, you need the viewer to appreciate the vehicle… and the fuel to get the work there… the building to put the work in… and the people who work there who help it all… the organisation of our world i guess who all contribute in some way to art being seen or made…

so perhaps seeing how august for me is really about the national eisteddfod i think it would be nice to start with that…

well, how shite has that become…?! seriously… as a person who has entered the visual arts competition held there every year, i now find the work that i do ineligible for entry… why? because the work contains the english language… (stop here and glance at work )… as you can see, i construct works using images and language… and now after Josephine Sowden won the gold medal in 2013 a rule has been introduced stopping the use of english language in visual arts… it says something like: english language may only be used if it is bracketed within the work or it’s part of an example and that it doesn’t proceed to be more than a small percentage of the work as a whole… ok… art by committee, i guess… but other languages can be used… charming… all in all it sounds ridiculous to me… especially when some of the work that i help create can take up to two years to make… i remember one year i sent in six empty canvases trying to get them to understand the work hasn’t been finished yet…

the visual arts should be exempt from any censorship… and over the years i have seen the gold medal for the eisteddfod as the closest thing i will ever have to being recognised by my country… i have been told that ‘its not all about you, neale…!’ … wrong… if it’s not about people like me who work and live in wales then what is the arts at the eisteddfod for?… I have also been told that other arts prizes are available to me, and that i would be better off entering the turner prize… so as you can see… comments like this are made by those who don’t really have a clue about the arts… when did the turner prize have an entry form…?

so, in nutshell… this is why the national eisteddfod needed that revamp twenty years ago… its arts and crafts has joined with the visual arts and so has literally got smaller at the festival… and now with this new parochial attitude, even smaller again… sadly the visual arts area is now a festival not for welsh or artists based in wales but for those who would like to close wales off from the outside world.

if art is any good then it doesn’t need explaining… the work will hopefully be around a lot longer than its maker so that’s why in the future we will see people wearing lampshades as hats… (reference tv series buck rogers 1980)… so wales needs to wake up to what art really is… it isn’t scary and you can understand it…