WALES IN VENICE
Cardiff-born artist Sean Edwards is representing Wales at one of the world’s biggest art festivals, the Venice Biennale. Set to be the ninth time Wales has presented an artist there, Edwards has a solo exhibition devised in conjunction with guest curator Marie-Anne McQuay of the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool and Wrexham-based Ty Pawb.
Edwards attended Cardiff School Of Art & Design before going to the Slade School of Fine Art to pursue a Masters in sculpture. Returning to Wales in 2005, nine years later he received the Gold medal for Fine Art at the Welsh Eisteddfod. Showcasing artistic talent means Wales can share its contemporary culture globally, and Welsh art is important to Sean. “You don’t need to live in London!” he says.
The work presented here focuses on shared personal experiences, a sense of a life lived without much in the way of expectations. The inspiration stems from his childhood on a Cardiff council estate in the 1980s: “It takes an autobiographical starting point and weaves together themes of family, class, loss and displacement. I hope that, in using a kind of personal and autobiographical way of telling ‘small stories’, the work might tell a much wider story about the state of class divides in the UK today.”
Edwards’ new body of work includes sculpture, prints, film, Welsh quilts and a live daily radio broadcast. In partnership with the National Theatre, Edwards has a spoken piece – a new venture for him. Titled Refrain, it will be played every day of the Biennale at 2pm, read by Sean’s mother and transmitted from her Cardiff home. When forming the idea, Sean approached the topic carefully with her as she is not used to performance art. “I wanted to think about different ways of telling stories,” he explains. “Her reading of the work also shapes my writing.”
Towards November at the Biennale, Refrain will be played across radio stations in Wales by the National Theatre and Ty Pawb. Edwards’ exhibit will tour the UK in spring of next year.
Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, Castello, Venice, Sat 11 May-Sun 24 Nov. Admission: free. Info: www.arts.wales/arts-in-wales/venice
words Tamzin Wilks