Monday, 9 November 2009

A tribute to Arthur Giardelli (1911-2009)

It is with great sadness that we report the death on November 2 2009, of former member of the Art Committee of Arts Council of Wales (1965-75), Arthur Giardelli.

He was one of the founders of the influential '56 Group' and was elected its chairman in 1959, a position he held until 1998, after which he was made Life President. A great supporter of the arts and artists in Wales, Giardelli was awarded an MBE in 1973 and made an Honorary Fellow of University College, Aberystwyth, six years later. In 1986 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Czechoslovak Society for International Relations. His work was bought by the Tate Gallery, the National Museum of Wales and private collectors on both sides of the Atlantic.

He made Pembrokeshire his home and will be remembered as not only a tremendous artist but a tireless champion for Wales and its culture.

David Alston, Art Director for the Arts Council of Wales said:

"We mourn the passing, albeit at a venerable old age, of a man and artist of such great energy, cosmopolitanism, passion for art, generosity of spirit, someone tireless in his efforts to promote the needs and cause of art and artists. In his own art, he made work with both an ineffable Welsh stamp to it whilst being firmly linked to European modernism. His art was nurtured by looking at Mondrian and sharing a territory with the Italian exponents of Arte Povera.

"Arthur relished polemic, discussion, conveying ideas, and feisty response, whence his life-long commitment to teaching and lecturing to Extra Mural and WEA groups. He continued to teach evening classes right into the last decade of his long life. He introduced them to the ceaseless flow of cultures' and civilisations' drive to make art, to find expression. To read his own comments on his life and his curiosity about art and what had influenced each turn of his life's path, is to be swept along in a roistering ride where you sense everything was enthusiastically savoured as experience to be captured and absorbed."

He pushed and prompted for exhibiting groups such as Group 56 Wales to exhibit in international arenas. Having experienced first hand in early career, the influence of Heinz Koppel as an exemplar European artist in Dowlais, he always saw the advantages to of international artistic contacts.

When asked by Meic Stephens, to contribute a sketch of his life to a 1971 anthology of writing from different artists and to reflect on contemporary Wales, he wrote of the circumstances which he could see would only come about slowly, whereby professional artists in any number and quality would be able to make livings from their work finding a market and a following in Wales. He felt strongly about our National institutions demonstrating commitment to the contemporary...and latterly being, and remaining free access.

Characteristic and key works are in the Tate, and Amgueddfa Cymru/ National Museum Wales, defined by lasting preoccupations and Pembrokeshire materials and experience:

"...the visual elements which I wished to compound had to do with tides running over wide stretches of sand, slate, mist, whitewash, stone walls, driftwood, flights of starlings or oyster catchers. I could find no better way of getting the tone of slate into my work and its characteristic kind of break than by making my pictures of this material. So the slate became a headland, or the grey sea or sky. I turned spars and oars I picked up on the beach, sliced up with my saw, into flights of birds swooping away from me at dusk. From shell dust, cork from fishermen's nets, drift wood and bits of brass cut from taps that leaked, I made images of arrows of foam which trail behind incoming breakers. I was given all kinds of things people didn't want any more: a piano, cartwheels, broken furniture, brooms, snapped spade handles; and I worked with them. I learnt the magic of the medium: to make the sun out of yellow mud."

For the "sophisticate" to read the medium of some of his later works such as the 1999 Dwellings ..."ink, paper, limpet shells in wood panel" or the earlier The Sea has Many Voices, "shells , paper, watch parts", is to invite scepticism. On the face of it how could important modern works be wrought from such an elementary approach? But these are complex works, that, whether experienced in the shifting light of his converted school home, studio and gallery, where he lived with Bim, or transported to the brighter lights of a London Gallery for his retrospective in 2001, coinciding with the Seren Publication of the engaging conversations of Derek Shiel with the artist, speak with immediacy and richness and depth of association.

They splendidly met Arthur's own criteria for successful work, captured in his conversation with poet Tony Curtis in Welsh Painters Talking: "I think a work of art is transitive. A work of art takes you beyond itself to something other. It may take you through itself into a dream world of which formerly you had no understanding...When I look at a Velasquez picture of a glass of water I am in awe of glass and I'll look at water again. And that is true of every good work of art. Any work which stops at itself isn't worth having. A work of art takes you beyond itself into other realms, into life itself."


Post a Comment

| Home | Main Site | About Us | Contact Us | Follow us on Twitter | Join us on Facebook |