Ahead of Gareth Griffith’s Trelar, Trailer exhibition, which opens at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre this month before going on to Ty Pawb, Wrexham in September, and Oriel Davies in January 2020, Steve Garnett takes a walk through his studio.
From early in his life, Gareth Griffith was aware of a visual language. His father was an artist and cartoonist. Gareth studied Fine Art at Liverpool, and became an art teacher. He and his young family moved to Jamaica to teach; an intense period. On returning to north Wales, Gareth taught art in local schools, continuing his art practice until his retirement.
The dramatic physical environment of north Wales; mountains, cliffs, quarries, seas and skies, often seems to impel artists towards the idea of portraying the sublime in nature. Gareth himself has made many fine pieces celebrating his environment. Many artists remain transfixed by the sublime; others develop a more humanist stance. Gareth says that many of the pieces derive from things that people have given him.
As he prepares for his next shows at Aberystwyth and Wrecsam, the studio has filled with three dimensional constructions and paintings. The constructions can be classed as the Wheeled and the Unwheeled. Wheeled constructions range from Gareth’s reconstruction of a Jamaican handcart, to black plastic profile heads mounted on smashed skateboard decks, their remaining bogies supplemented by castors. Some of these heads represent late family members, others contemporary friends. Possibly Gareth wishes to interrogate the heads, seeking prophecy. “It wasn’t us,” they may reply, “no way.”
The Unwheeled encompasses the Rude Boys; constructions topped with stingy brimm titfers, to the pieces that have engendered companion paintings. These are not necessariy maquettes, models whose sole purpose is to be painted; some have had an independent existence in their own right. At present these mostly small paintings and their models are clustered together on Gareth’s studio wall, making a larger piece. The forms and colours ping off each other, each piece interacting with and encouraging its neighbours. On the wall to the right of this assemblage hangs a large painting, of the wall, and some of its inhabitants, including a fabulous Gustonian rigger’s glove, thumb aloft.
Colour can be a strong element of experience and memory. Gareth’s range through the blue red and yellow of childrens’ toys through hotter Caribbean colours, to a green I can only describe as “Corpy” green, the colour of Liverpool fifty years ago, buses, lampposts and the door to my Nana’s flat.
The pieces can be seen as Gareth Griffith working through experiences, memories and relationships, studying the webs of past present and future, thinking and reflecting with his eyes and hands.