WALES: A love letter

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A Love letter to Wales


A sparkling love letter to Wales. Breathtaking. I am in awe. Absolutely blown away. These are just a few of the many comments left by visitors to Russ Chester’s recent art exhibition in Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Llanbedrog a few months ago. This was part one of his first major solo exhibition debuts this year, and will be followed by part two in Oriel Môn, Anglesey in August. Working on a three-year long project, which found him painting nearly every single day, Russ decided to split the two exhibitions under the same working title Y daith yn fy nghalon’ – ‘the journey in my heart’ (also the title of his new book).

"Art has been a journey which has lasted all my life, but which took on a new importance when I moved to Wales as a teenager in the late 1970s," says Russ. "Since that move, I have worked mainly outdoors, initially on local farms then eventually further afield around Gwynedd and Anglesey; firstly doing drystone walling before turning to tree surgery and powerline clearance. So what’s this got to do with art? I am aware of the complex patterns hidden in my surroundings and have been lucky enough to see parts of Wales not many people have access to; the far corners of fields, lost little lanes, into farmyards and into people’s lives. I know the cold, I know drenching rain, I know summer heat, I know weather, I know the seasons, I know the light, I know the trees, I know what stone looks and feels like, I Know the countryside and the lay of the land.

"The journey in my heart project is a culmination of my experiences presented in paintings that explore the light, textures, mood and colours I have encountered along the way."

In the first exhibition – despite personal reservations – he sold 70 per cent of the 31 paintings on show. “With the current economic climate, energy and fuel hikes and a war in Europe, I really thought I wouldn’t sell much, so I was more than relieved to have attracted so much interest,” he said.

The Glyn-y-Weddw show focused on the scenery of Gwynedd and Pen Llŷn (Llŷn peninsula), the next one in Oriel Môn is a completely separate collection of paintings and is an enormous undertaking with a further 69 paintings going to fill this impressive gallery space; and while it still depicts Gwynedd and Pen Llŷn, it also pays tribute to the scenery of Anglesey and other parts of Wales.

With his next exhibition and the same circumstances still in the news, how does he feel about it? “The situation is still very worrying but I’ve come to believe that people still want beautiful things around them. This is a huge exhibition for me and quite a stressful situation, I’m really hoping that the paintings I’m taking to Oriel Môn will give people a chance to relax in a beautiful environment and reflect upon something else for a change. I’m also hoping that the exhibition does particularly well for Oriel Môn as it has a special place in my heart.”

Russ’s work can be viewed at the Oriel Môn Gallery, Llangefni, Anglesey, from August 6 until September 18. The exhibition is interactive and all painting labels have a QR code to scan for maps, photos and other information about the areas which inspired his work. – For anyone looking for a ‘day out’ this summer, this is a must see exhibition and an opportunity not to be missed.
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