John Uzzell Edwards

10th October 1934 – 5th March 2014

To live in Wales is to be conscious

At dusk of the spilled blood

That went into the making of the wild sky.

R S Thomas

If you would like to come and celebrate his life with us, please come to the upcoming show in Tenby, a town he LOVED and drew his inspiration from... xxx

John Uzzell Edwards was born in Deri in the Rhymney Valley, South Wales in 1937. He was awarded the Granada Arts Fellowship by York University in 1966 and in 1968 received the Prix de Rome at the British School in Rome. In 1986 he was Artist in Residence at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea and was made an honorary member of York University.

In 1988 he was granted an Arts Council of Wales Travel scholarship to study Celtic art in Europe, and has twice been awarded the main painting prize at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. He formed a new group of Welsh painters ‘Ysbryd/Spirit Wales in 1998.

In 1999 he exhibited at the Humphries Gallery, San Francisco; in 2000 he had the Millennium exhibition on at Tenby Museum and Art gallery; in 2001 at the Mall Gallery, London, at the National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff in 2003, and in 2004 at MOMA, Y Tabernacl, Machynllyth.

For the last three years he has shown at the Euro-Celtic exhibition at L’Orient, Brittany. He has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and his work is represented in many public and private collections in the United Kingdom and abroad. He lives and works near Swansea, South Wales.

John Uzzell Edwards’ work is to do with Pure Painting, not picture making, and is driven by an exploration of Celtic forms. He is inspired by Celtic crosses and stone inscriptions, mediaeval tiles, and the lettering and carpet pages of holy books and ancient manuscripts.

The main inspiration for the very recent paintings has come from the St. Teilo’s Bible, which was made in Wales after the time of the Lindisfarne Bible and before the Book of Kells.

'From 1985 I was awarded a Welsh Arts Council Travel Grant to study 'Standing Stones' throughout Europe, I have worked on a series of paintings and drawings which are totally connected. The first standing stone I painted was the 'Llywel Stone' which is now in the British Museum. This was followed by a series of paintings based on the imagery from the 'Standing Stones' throughout Wales. The imagery and the feelings expressed in these paintings seemed to relate to the poetry of RS Thomas, and particularly the poem 'Welsh landscape' and the lines -

To live in Wales is to be conscious
At dusk of the spilled blood
That went to the making of the wild sky
RS Thomas

Early in 1996 I was commissioned by the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford upon Avon, to paint any Shakespearean charcter. I chose Owain Glyndwr and the statement by Glyndwr from 'King Henry IV' -
When I was born the earth did shake

The two quotations above are often written directly on the paintings.
In August 1997 I visited Neath Abbey and there in the large hall I found a most wonderful medieval tiled floor from the 12th Century; the subject matter was hunting and jousting. The 'jousting' imagery seemed to relate to a previous 'Warrior' series, and has inspired a whole new series of works. They appear to be all about 'Painting' and not 'Picture Making'. They seem to relate to manuscripts I have studied in Ireland and Wales. They seem to weave and meander like a story from the 'Mabinogion', a Welsh knot, or a piece of penllion music.
Statement taken from the catalogue of The Millennium Exhibition at the Tenby Museum.'

'FORWARD' Robert McKee on John Uzzell Edwards

The Hindu symbol for the human mind is the jabbering monkey, that cerebral Pandemonium only intense meditation can silence. For while the incessant rattling of self-debate, of repetitious mental tasks, of flitting memory and anticipation gets us through our days, this moil also builds an impenetrable frtress against deep experience. As long as the mind is whirling away, no substantive change can occur within us. The joy of art, therefore, is its power to silence the monkey. When in the grip of compelling work we slip into a spontaneous meditation. Then, in the quiet of aesthetic contemplation, we are filled with the artist's vision, our humanity is illuminated, our being renewed.

Thus I have a simple test that tells me whether or not a painting works, if, when I step up to a canvas, I hear my mind spewing thoughts such as "Clever juxtaposition of red against blue," "Interesting solution to that problem in the upper left," "That image...yes, I remember, it's the symbol for -", I know in a flash that this piece does not work. It has amplified the chatter. If, however, my mind falls silent as my eye travels around the surface for five, ten minutes or more with no analysis, no musing, no questioning, only pure sensory focus inside a perfect stillness of thought, then, as I finally look away, sensing a deep resonation of aesthetic experience, I know that this painting works. It is not merely decorative; it is expressive. It has silenced the chatter in my mind and caused a profound shift within such that I am not the same person I was just moments ago.

The paintings of John Uzzell Edwards have this power. I first experienced his magic a decade ago in Cardiff's West Wharf gallery. There were other painters on exhibit that day, solid professional artists, but the Uzzell Edwards canvasses drew me like a Siren's song. In this period his works were figurative... muscular outlines and vigorous matrixes created through a layering of oils, brush strokes and pallet knife, that generated the most amazing textures and colour combinations I had ever seen. I stood, I don't know how long, in wordless fascination. When at last I stepped back, I knew I wanted these paintings in my life, for if they had such power at first viewing, surely their force would grow day after day, year after year to give me endless, bottomless pleasure. Indeed, the six 'Uzzell Edwards' I've collected to date have done all that and more.

Robert McKee is a screen guru who lectures in 'story structure' to auditoriums worldwide. His bestselling bible on the principles of screenwriting 'Story' was published in 1998.