The Welsh Group is deeply saddened to hear of the death, after a long illness, of honorary and long-term member, our former chair, Robert Alwyn Hughes, who was still producing powerful, thought-provoking works - often recalling the myths and customs of his Dowlais childhood, and drawing inspiration from the symbolism and poetry of the Bible, Dylan Thomas and Idris Davies (d 1953), juxtposed against the stark reality of global and local events. A student of Ceri Richards at the Royal College, and influenced in Dowlais by the expressionism of Heinz Koppel, he was a key figure in the art of Wales, one of a significant group of Welsh artists who emerged in the ‘50s from the valleys, who as noted by Iwan Bala, “felt no need to lose their Welshness”. Amongst them were Ernest Zobole and Robert Alwyn Hughes's Royal College contemporary, John Selway, also former members of the Welsh Group.
As a lecturer in film and video at Cheltenham College, Robert was able to paint there, and to take every opportunity to return to the inspiration of the Valleys. At Oriel Canvas Gallery, Cardiff in his show “Y Marchogion”, he examined aspects of the horsemen of the Apocalypse and in a performance quoted passages from Revelations with Ivor Davies, who read the same passages in Welsh.
A retrospective of his painting was held in 2006 in Newport where Iwan Bala described him as a painter of complexity, many-layered symbolism, imagery and treatment as being “like a chapel preacher of the past, his images, metaphors and similes... gathered from far and wide, to provoke and to discourse. The discourse is a contemporary one. The paintings, though related to and referring to the past, are products of the post-modern cacophony of information”.
At 85, Robert Alwyn Hughes was still painting his multi-layered, unique works with their seemingly “collaged” complexities, “the mix of figurative and abstract, the blacks, the yellows, the reds”, the imagery and space from abstract to photo realist, and from graphic to painterly; “a consummate artist, never content with regurgitating old themes and methodologies, but willing to be bold, to take risks and to enjoy the studio processes that allow experimentation and originality”.
Quotes from Iwan Bala.
Artist talks at Found
A series of talks recorded at Found Gallery, Brecon during The Welsh Group's exhibition Twenty Twenty, featuring: