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Artists in the Archives: 60 Years of 56 Group Wales


On the 16 April 2016 Artists in the Archives: 60 Years of 56 Group Wales exhibition opens at The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.     

This exhibition explores sixty years of 56 Group Wales, one of the longest established exhibiting groups of professional artists in Wales. It comprises a selection from the Group's extensive archive, recently donated to the Library, complemented by artworks mainly from the Library's collection.

David Moore, Curator said:

 'I am delighted that the National Library have accepted the Group's important archive, the survival of which is largely due  to the late Mary Griffiths who was its secretary for twenty-seven years. The exhibition highlights the Group's historically formidable exhibiting power,frequent visits to the Continent and vital role in promoting the professional artist in Wales.'

The 56 Group was founded by Cardiff Art College lecturers Eric Malthouse and David Tinker together with artist and architect Michael Edmonds. While much concerned with abstraction, the work was broadly modernist and some was figurative. The members were frustrated at a lack of exhibiting opportunities for their work in Wales. 'The need was felt', wrote Tinker, 'to voice a clear radical point of view...'

Nine artists accepted an invitation to join: painters George Fairley, Robert Hunter, Heinz Koppel, Will Roberts, John Wright and Ernest Zobole; painter and constructivist Arthur Giardelli; and sculptors Trevor Bates and Hubert Dalwood. All except Roberts were art lecturers and only Brenda Chamberlain declined. The opportunity to exhibit was a bigger attraction than a circulated statement of aims.

The Group's first exhibition, due to one of Giardelli's contacts, was held at Worcester in 1957 and toured to Cardiff and Tenby. The public response was sometimes hostile. Several works were vandalised at the National Museum in 1960, the only occasion in which all founder members exhibited together.

Over the decades the group has, inevitably, changed its character and has included artists working in a range of styles.

Jaimie Thomas, Exhibitions Officer The National Library of Wales added:

'We are extremely grateful to the 56 Group Wales for donating their archive to the National Library; the exhibition will be a fitting tribute to the Group's longevity and a celebration of its 60 year contribution to Welsh and international art.'

The National Library will be exhibiting artworks by three of the founder members - David Tinker, Eric Malthouse and Arthur Giardelli - as well as works by Jeffrey Steele, Tom Hudson, Mary Lloyd Jones, Peter Prendergast, Shani Rhys James and Dilys Jackson. Specially-commissioned photographs of new members by Tiff Oben are also included.

In the show you will get a chance to see a signed letter from Yoko Ono who was invited to an event by the group in 1968. The letter read: ‘I’m sorry I have no idea what I’ll be doing, but I’ll be there. Fifty Pounds plus expenses will be alright.’ To the group's embarrassment, she did not turn up but sent a chauffeur-driven limousine carrying a signed photograph of herself.  The group responded by sending her a photograph of the torn up £50 cheque!

The exhibition will be officially opened on Saturday 16th April by Mary Lloyd Jones – the first woman to join the group in the late 70s.

Further Information

Elin-Hâf 01970 632471

Exhibition dates:
16 April  – 10 September

Related Events:
A Taste of the Avant - Garde: 56 Group Wales, 60 Years