Paintings by Gustavius Payne at The Andrew Lamont Gallery in Theatr Brycheiniog draw reference from folklore, tradition, religion and a shared history, with a consistent concern for the future.
Opening on July 24 and running until August 30, the Merthyr-born artist said the exhibition will show demonstrates that his work as an artist has developed from an introvert to a wider perspective.
Born Michael Gustavius Payne in Merthyr Tydfil in 1969, he was raised during the 1970s and 80s on the near by Gurnos estate, leaving school at sixteen but returning to full-time education at 21 to pursue his interest in visual art. Payne won his first art prize at the 1993 National Eisteddfod of Wales as Student of The Year.
Today he is represented by Ffin-Y-Parc Gallery in Llanrwst, where his work is regularly shown and held in stock. Work is also held at Water Street Gallery, Lancashire and the Lion Street Gallery, Hay-On-Wye. He has exhibited regularly since 1994, including an Arts Council of Wales funded collaborative touring exhibition, with poet and author Mike Jenkins during 2011 – 2012.
Payne explained that his work increasingly considers the social, ecological and political environment in which Wales finds itself; “my early work was quite introverted and very much an exploration of my own particular situation. We are all human beings living through similar experiences, so I believe others can still take something form that approach, however, maybe as a consequence of seeing my children grow, I have been drawn towards a wider perspective. I tend to think much more about how things affect the world I live in, rather than how things affect me specifically. Hopefully it’s a more empathetic approach to subject matter”.
In the painting “Dreaming of Flight” a row of children stand to attention, naked in old adults’ boots, with “rocket like” display aeroplanes flying overhead. A hound brings red, white and blue bunting from behind them. Payne elaborates on the image by explaining that it was one of the few images directly influenced by a specific event. The event in question was the day his then ten-year-old son visited an air-show in Swansea with a friend’s parents, returning with information about how to enrole with the Royal Air-Force when he was old enough.
“My son was full of excitement about the possibility of flying and being a Royal Air Force pilot. His enthusiasm for flying had completeley eclipsed the actual role of the armed forces. I could clearly see how a young boy’s natural instincts could be manipulated by the powerful,” he explained.
Gustavius Payne Dreaming of Flight
Animals often feature in Payne’s work. In another of his larger paintings The Cause and Effect Hypothesis, images of various animals surround a female figure who sits with eyes closed and a mobile phone held in an open hand. Does the female figure represent some lost link to a “mother nature” type element in our shared psychology? Does her apparent sleeping state suggest, the possibility at least, of some sort of future awakening? These conversation pieces often raise more questions than answers which is precisely the artist’s intention, “I don’t presume to hold any real solutions to the issues that face our species, though those issues are very much part of my motivation and exist in my work in some form. The role of the artist in my opinion is to try to be as honest as possible in holding a mirror up to the world as it is, with some sort of poetic intervention added to make the reflection interesting and maybe enlightening in some way.
“Ultimatelyy what the viewer takes from any artwork isn’t really in the artist’s power to control. Interpretations often say as much, or maybe even more, about the viewer than the the artist. After completion the artwork needs to be able to stand alone so that the viewer can take a degree of ownership in responding to the work, in what I’d hope would be an equally open and inquisitive way. In that way I’d like to think that art in general can have a role in enriching our lives by being part of a process that helps us all understand what is important in our lives; what we should prioritise; and and what we should celebrate about being alive”.
The Cause and Effect Hypothesis