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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 09:15 GMT
Sir Kyffin attacks art 'fame-seekers'

Sir Kyffin Williams

One of Britain's leading painters Sir Kyffin Williams has accused modern artists of being more interested in fame than art.

At the opening of a gallery on his native Anglesey, 85-year-old Sir Kyffin, a member of the Royal Academy, said much of modern art was "totally unlikeable" and labelled teaching in art colleges "disgraceful."

Speaking at the opening of the Oriel Gwyngyll gallery in Llanfairpwll, north Wales, on Monday night, he blamed the art establishment, including the arts councils and competitions like the Turner Prize and the Welsh-funded Artes Mundi.

"Nobody ever likes the work in the Turner Prize," he said.

"Conceptual installation art is worthless and people don't want it.

"Galleries are desperately trying to find young artists who can draw - even in places like Cardiff and London."

Sir Kyffin, who draws much of the inspiration for his work from the scenery of north Wales, said many modern artists were more interested in fame and publicity than art itself.

"There is very little love in art in art today...very little humanity in the work people do," he said.

Chapman brothers' entry in 2003 Turner Prize
The Chapman brothers' entry had been a favourite for the Turner

"So much modern work is totally, totally unlikeable."

The Turner Prize stirs an annual debate about the merits of often modern art. It was won last year by the pottery artist Grayson Perry, a transvestite who creates vases depicting subjects like death and child abuse.

Also nominated last year were controversial brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman, whose work included Sex, a sculpture depicting bodies being picked at by maggots. Another, Death, was a bronze sculpture of a pair of blow-up dolls engaged in a sex act on a lilo.

Sir Kyffin's attack echoes the comments about the previous year's Turner by the Pontypridd MP and Transport Minister Kim Howells, who described the entries as "cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit".

"What has been taught in art colleges has been disgraceful over the last 50 years
Sir Kyffin Williams

Sir Kyffin spoke as he promoted a national drawing competition for Wales which will be hosted in Llanfairpwll in July.

Sir Kyffin is donating 1,500 for the main prize and will act as the official adjudicator.

"We decided on drawing because it has been so neglected lately," he explained.

"I don't know what we will get but I'm hoping it will encourage people to draw.

"In art college it is hardly taught - I teach it in primary schools in Gwynedd.

Mot the Sheepdog by Sir Kyffin Williams
Sir Kyffin Mot the Sheepdog: 'The art of drawing is being lost.'
"What has been taught in art colleges has been disgraceful over the last 50 years."

"People in Wales have never been terribly interested in art but now they seem to want pictures more than ever.

"They want them because they like something they know - something that is Welsh like the sheepdog and the Welsh like pictures of Wales because it gives them a feeling of warmth."

The Oriel Gwyngyll gallery has been opened by local artist and photographer Edward Pari-Jones and his wife Jackie.

The gallery displays his work and some reproductions of Sir Kyffin's work and will help stage the stage the competition in the summer.

The competition is open to all age groups from professional and amateur artists through to secondary and primary school pupils throughout Wales.

Application forms can be obtained from Oriel Gwyngyll in Llanfairpwll, by telephone on 01248 713963.

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