This is a busy time of year for me when I do so much travelling around it’s hard to pause to blog, but I do want to tell you about a show that is running right now at the wonderful Late November Gallery in Haverfordwest. It introduces – or should I say re-introduces – a unique artistic talent back to Wales, and I reckon it’s one of the most arresting, visually exciting, and sometimes downright unsettling shows you’ll see this year.
The eldest son of two of Wales’ finest artists of recent decades – Claudia Williams and the late Gwilym Pritchard, Ceri Pritchard was born in North Wales but has lived abroad, mostly in France and Mexico, for several decades before settling in Tenby.
Dream-like and rich in colour, his unique style blends the surreal and the visionary, exploring the landscape of the subconscious mind while drawing on influences as diverse as music, technology and mythology.
“One thing I’m always astounded by is how much of art seems preoccupied with the world we see, and only a small amount of it explores interior worlds,” he says.
“From the outset I thought it would be amazing if you could make paintings that combine immense and unexpected visual input.
“I’ve always been very interested in consciousness in its various forms, and one of the things I try to achieve when I paint is a feeling of some other world, some other type of existence.”
Born in 1954, Pritchard studied sculpture at Liverpool School of Art before enrolling at Saint Martin’s School of Art, where he continued to sculpt. He started painting in France in the 1980s and continued to paint during his years in Mexico.
His time in each country has help to shape his work. The most significant change tool place around eight years ago when he moved from exploring the borderline between figuration and abstraction to creating more clearly figurative work.
“It was quite a radical change, which came about because I started to think I would like to explore work that had some kind of a narrative. I became interested in the idea that there was a story lying behind the painting and this inevitably meant that I moved into a much more figurative way of working.”
This work may be figurative but it plays with familiar forms, creating surreal and often unsettling deviations from the world around us. Human and animal elements combine, bodies disintegrate and otherworldy figures are juxtaposed with mundane household items. It’s disorienting, arresting glimpse of a world that seems to lie beyond but also interpenetrate our reality.
As his most recent paintings show, his work is continuing to evolve, some of it edging back towards abstraction.
“Returning to Wales has made me very much aware of the cyclic aspect of life,” he says. “I have always been aware of art as a ‘spiritual barometer’. In many ways I feel the same here as I do in Mexico – my inner world is the same. What changes is the feeling of being ‘home’ again and not a stranger in a foreign land.”
This new introduction will properly introduce his work to Wales, starting a new chapter in his creative life as a new audience begins to engage with this unique artistic vision.
“The challenge of creativity is always for me rewarded by the element of surprise. I work to make paintings that change one’s visual perception, that produce wonder and anxiety at the same time,” he says.