If you’re heading to Wales this spring, and would like to take in some culture during your visit, there are several exciting exhibitions you may want to add to your itinerary.
While the bulk of Wales’ cultural venues can be found in the capital of Cardiff, there are plenty more museums and other institutions scattered across the nation. Indeed, at last count, Wales could lay claim to over 90 accredited museums celebrating subjects and themes ranging from industrial heritage to textiles to fine art. Below are some of the best exhibitions running through spring 2023.
Neil Carroll: Homelands
Since growing up at the top end of the Rhymney valley, Neil Carroll has always been inspired by the sheer natural beauty of the place, a stretch of homelands to walk and absorb in all seasons and times of day. Painting is a true adventure for Carroll and when he paints, he sets out to create a response to these experiences in his handling of the paint, his feelings for and about the valley, the change of viewpoints, moods, seasons and qualities of light. Carroll wants to convey his emotions in paint, to speak in paint and to let the paint speak, and seeing his work at The Winding House this May, his experiences, feelings and sensations will be shared.
The Winding House, Elliotstown, New Tredegar / 6-27 May 2023
The Rules of Art?
This exhibition brings together 500 years of painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, film and ceramics to pose questions about representation, identity and culture. A breadth of historic, modern and contemporary artworks from the National Museum’s collections are showcased, all serving to highlight some of the contemporary social issues faced today. The works are displayed in a way that shows how artists have pursued a shared purpose: to push, subvert, question and reimagine what art can be.
National Museum Cardiff / Through 4 June 2023
Kings of the Underground
Welsh colliers worked in one of the most intensively mined areas on earth and produced the world’s finest coal which helped drive the industrial revolution. Through the use of a photographic process called photogrammetry, which converts two-dimensional images into three-dimensional portraits, this exhibition captures the memories and physiognomies (facial features) of the last generation of Welsh coalminers. The results are a collection of unique 3D digital portraits along with stories in their own voices of the colliers and relatives.
National Waterfront Museum, Swansea / Through 19 March 2023
Jane Hope: Echoes of the Mabinogion
Oxford-based artist Jane Hope became fascinated by The Mabinogion manuscripts – the earliest Welsh prose stories compiled in the 12th-13th centuries – while living in the Welsh town of Blaenau Ffestiniog and visiting the wild places in which the stories are set. This exhibition features paintings based on the stories and images from the Mabinogion, each aiming to convey the mysterious atmosphere and mood of this interconnected realm of animals, humans and spiritual landscape.
The Tannery Gallery, The Museum Of Modern Art, Machynlleth / Through 15 April 2023
Asphalt Expressionism: Mobile Phone Photography of NYC Pavements
In 1958, American painter Allan Kaprow abandoned traditional media and called for a “new concrete art.” A few years later, in 1961, sculptor and installation artist Claes Oldenburg declared: “I am for the art of scratchings in the asphalt,” the “art of ice cream cones dropped on concrete.” This exhibition showcases large-scale digital prints of New York’s scratched, streaked and splattered sidewalks – impressions of which were gathered during the curator’s monthlong return visit to the Big Apple in the autumn of 2022 – to consider contemporary mobile phone photography, the most common mode of capturing the mundane and memorable alike, in the contexts of canonical art and its histories.
Oriel Tessa Sidey Gallery, Aberystwyth University / Through 21 April 2023
The Sea Horizon
Across eighteen months between 1976-77, fine artist Garry Fabian Miller photographed the view from the rooftop of his home in Clevedon, looking out across the Severn Estuary towards the coastline of Wales. This exhibition features 40 of these photos, each with the same square format with the line of the horizon dividing the sea and the sky. The result is a collection of pictures that are all technically identical, yet all representationally unique, serving as a powerful meditation on time, place and belonging, and as a reminder of how landscapes change and adapt over time.
National Museum Cardiff / Through 10 September 2023
Who was Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton? A war hero. A cruel tyrant. A symptom of the British Empire. All of these things can be true at once and are explored in an exhibition which has been years in the making. The exhibition is split into three rooms, each containing their own artwork. The first is an installation titled ‘Spirited’ which presents a trio of named victims of Picton’s brutal regime in Trinidad; the second is a newly commissioned work called ‘The Wound is a Portal’ comprising a series of photos and a film that explore healing; and the third pushes visitors to confront Picton’s legacy through curated items telling his story.
National Museum Cardiff / Through 3 September 2023
From Mine to Museum
Set in the unique Blaenafon Industrial Landscape, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Big Pit National Coal Museum invites visitors to experience the sights, sounds, smells and atmosphere of an authentic coal mine. Led by a real miner, tours take you 300ft underground through original mine workings, providing a living, breathing taste of what life was like for those who made their living at the coal face. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023, this exhibition traces the museum’s history as it transformed from a working coal mine into one of the UK’s leading tourist attractions.
Big Pit National Coal Museum, Pontypool / Through 1 December 2023