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Arthur Giardelli MBE has died

Arthur Giardelli MBE has died

3rd November 2009

"If I don't paint for a month, I may give it up for ever, so the constant challenge is that you must keep working. You must paint. You must draw. It's like speaking".

Arthur Giardelli died, aged 98, on Monday the 2nd of November.

Arthur Giardelli was born in 1911 in London. He trained in 1930-34 at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. In the 1940s he was involved with the Dowlais Settlement. Occasionally he also studied painting with Cedric Morris. From 1947 he lived in Carmarthenshire and Aberystwyth (becoming a tutor at University College, Aberystwyth in 1958) and since 1969 he had his studio in Pembrokeshire.

Arthur was a friend of Cedric Morris, David Jones, Josef Herman and Ceri Richards. His international circle included the painters Zoran Music, Ota Janecek, Olivier Debre and the American Fairfield Porter.

While teaching at Aberystwyth he helped found the University Art Collection (and advised Swansea University on theirs). For much of his time he was represented by the Grosvenor Gallery in London. On his retirement from formal teaching he was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Wales. From 1965 to 1975, Arthur was also a member of the Committee of the Welsh Arts Council.

His exhibiting career has been extensive and his work is now in the public collections of the Tate Gallery, National Museum of Wales, National Library of Wales, Contemporary Art Society of Wales, Arts Council, MoMA Cymru Machynlleth, Brecknock Museum, Tenby Museum as well as museums and galleries in New York, Dubln, Nantes, Bratislavia and Prague.

Arthur Giardelli was one of the founders of the 56 Group Wales in 1956. From 1958 to 1998 he chaired the 56 Group Wales and towards the end of his life also became its President.


At the age of 90 Giardelli was still "creating the subtle and poetic relief constructions for which he is best known. Abstract in form, these echo the shifting of the seasons, the wind's energy, or the movements of the tide. They are made from evocative found materials, both man-made and natural, each of which brings its own history and associations.
There is a real power in Giardelli's dissection and assembly of the world around him - his constructions seem to travel on a journey from the baseness of their materials to expressions of the mesaphysical. There is a formal rightness to the compositions, and a frequent beauty, but there are deeper meanings too, concerned with time, space and transitory lives...In his own words:'...rubbish, discarded things, remind us of what they have been: a slate has been on a roof, a sack has contained potatoes, cork has held up a fishing net, and once you use sand you find that if put on canvas it may become the beach'...His originality in his chosen idiom at least kept pace with its generally acknowledged masters internationally; and the beauty and strangeness of his best work is both memorable and distinctively his own." 
(excerpts quoted from Peter Wakelin's paper "Arthur Giardelli & the Art of Conversation", published in New Welsh Review No.55 pp.43-48)

Arthur was awarded in 1970 the prize at the National Eisteddfod; in 1973 he received the MBE; in 1979 he was the winner of the British Council Award; in 1979-85 he was an Honorary Fellow at University College Aberystwyth; in 1986 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Czechoslovak Society for International Relations; and in 2002 he received the Cyfaill Celfyddyd Cymru medal from the National Eisteddfod.

A long and very distinguished career. Arthur Giardellis life is the link between our contemporary practice today and the greatest achievements from Welsh art history during the 20th Century. Arthur will be missed.

Collage - A Storm Looming by Arthur Giardelli

Photographs - Pete Telfer

Link to Arthur's obituary in the Guardian by David Moor HERE

Link to Arthur's obituary in the Independent by Meic Stephens HERE

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