Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Wednesday, 30 June 2010 11:38 UK
Family links to Flat Holm inspire artist's exhibition
Penny Somerville at work in her studio
Penny was intrigued and inspired by her family links to Flat Holm

An artist's family link to an island off the south Wales coast has provided inspiration for her latest exhibition.

Penny Somerville first visited Flat Holm 30 years ago, having been told by her father that he was born there.

Whilst researching her family history she discovered that her grandfather was stationed there in the late 19th Century as a master gunner.

An exhibition of Penny's work is at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Cardiff Bay until Saturday 3 July.

Penny, who is a painter, printmaker and glass artist, has a strong ties to the island, which is in the Bristol Channel .

"I first visited the island 30 years ago, as I remember my father telling me that he had been born on Flat Holm," she said.

"I became intrigued by my family's link to the island."

Towards Lavernock, pen and ink drawing
Penny's grandfather was in charge of the island's fortifications

Whilst researching her family history Penny discovered her father Ralph Alfred Erskine Somerville's birth certificate.

It showed that her grandfather - also called Ralph Alfred Somerville - was stationed on the island in the late 19th Century as a Master Gunner, Royal Artillery.

He was in charge of the Victorian fortifications that were designed to repel a French invasion.

Penny's grandfather lived on Flat Holm for six years with his wife and three of his six children including Penny's father who was born on the island in 1897.

She says that when she visited the island she went initially to make a connection with her father, who died when she was 18.

However she says whilst walking around the island and visiting the gun pits, she felt an increasing connection to her grandfather, who died before she was born.

Limestone pavement, West Beach, etching and aquatint
Windy conditions prompted Penny to work with minimal materials

Penny made seven visits to Flat Holm during 2009 to capture the beauty of the island and find out more about the place which holds such strong ties to her family.

Whilst on Flat Holm Penny discovered that the windy weather conditions meant she needed to work with minimal materials.

As an artist who'd always been interested in colour she admits she needed to change her way of thinking and experimented with monochrome.

"I made sketchbook drawings and watercolour sketches on the island and then took these back to the studio, where more considered etchings were made," she said.

"A sketch might take five minutes but an etching might take three weeks of work on the copper plate to achieve the battered and archaeological atmosphere achieved in the prints."

The exhibition comprises of 30 pieces of work, made up of drawings, etchings and printed enamels. There's also a display of material Penny gleaned from beachcombing on Flat Holm.

And members of Penny's family coming down to Cardiff to see her exhibition have a treat in store to look forward to during their visit.

Fourteen members of the family including her four children and six grandchildren will be taking a trip out to Flat Holm in a pilgrimage to the one time home of their grandfather, great grandfather and great, great grandfather.

The exhibition of Penny's work at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre will run until Saturday 3 July and coincides with the Flat Holm Society's fundraising concert at the venue that day.

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