Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Arthur Giardelli

Arthur Giardelli - Dwellings 1999 - seen here

I was so sad to hear of the death of Pembrokeshire based artist Arthur Giardelli on 2 November. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but I know from those who have that he was an amazingly wise and gentle man. He was born in 1911 in London, so he reached the very grand age of 98. He settled in west Wales in the 1940's and contributed hugely to the arts through education work; with the 56 Group Wales of artists and the Contemporary Art Society for Wales. He was a committee member of the Arts Committee of the Arts Council of Wales from 1965 - 75.

I have often heard tales of Giardelli's amazing personal collection of modernist works from artists he had met in Paris such as Picasso, Braque and Dubuffet and his friends Ceri Richards and David Jones amongst many more.

Most importantly, however is the legacy of Giardelli's own work, especially his constructions and assemblage. Made in relief on panels the work uses found materials such as shells, slate, wood and hessian and reflects his love of the coast, the rhythms and tides of the seashore; still powerfully resonant. He continued working to the end of his life. We were lucky to be able to show some of his work in the gallery in 2008 as part of 56 Group Wales show All of These Things.

I like this piece in Giardelli's own words: "...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 it's characteristic kind of break than by making the pictures of this material. So the slate became 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 fisher men's nets, driftwood 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."

Culture Colony have a wonderful video of curator David Moore talking with Arthur Giardelli at his home - inspiring and uplifting to watch!

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