Aidan Myers is a contemporary fine artist specialising in figurative/abstract oil painting. He has been based in Cardiff for the last six years, and now works from his studio in Adamsdown.

Can you tell us what you do? 

I’m an artist primarily working in oil on canvas. I make large-scale paintings using references from life drawing as the main starting point. I find human anatomy very interesting and it is a big influence to my ideas within painting. I have spent a lot of time drawing during my fine art degree and afterwards, which has really developed my abilities as an artist.

Whilst mostly working upon large compositions, some of my recent paintings have begun to venture more into a smaller scale, which is relatively uncharted territory for me. It’s all about experimentation and keeping my options open as I can easily get used to a rhythm of working only on a large-scale, this can become a little too safe at times so working on a smaller scale really forces me to challenge myself to achieve more powerful, engaging paintings.

​​Why have you chosen to work in Cardiff?

I went straight from graduating from three years of BA Fine Art into a graduate program called the Inc. Space based at the Cardiff School of Art & Design Llandaff campus. It was a truly amazing opportunity for me where i was able to learn about ways of building a successful creative business and sustaining an artist practice simultaneously. I developed key skills such as learning how to juggle multiple priorities, approach clients/galleries, build up confidence to discuss artwork in business context and maintaining development to the critical aspects of my work. All of this was in light of creating a sustainable business that can support my financial needs!

It is certainly difficult to show that the practice of painting and creation of artwork is the priority - when the only thing that is seen on social media or public outlets are the sales, the gallery shows and essentially the business side of things - but painting really does always come first for me. I have received criticism for things such as loaning artwork, selling work and being perceived to create new work just to make money; but I feel as if many critical views from these angles come from people who cannot understand or accept that there is a reality behind being an artist. It’s not just about living a creative idealistic dream where significant opportunities land at your feet and where selling your work is not necessary. I believe that it’s important to develop both as an artist and as a sustainable business, and I definitely prefer spending everyday working in the studio as opposed to having to work elsewhere. I actually still own a lot of the paintings I’ve produced, but they make regular income from being loaned out to help fund my studio costs – it is opportunities like this that make an artist’s creative practice become sustainable.

What inspires you about being here?

People inspire me. The city is small so I can reach out to a lot of people really quickly and regularly - meet up for a beer or chat whenever, which is really useful.

It is good that the city is relatively small and you can cycle from your house to the studio and everywhere else in between. We have the Brecon Beacons, the coastline…they’re all great places to escape to and they’re on our doorstep. We’re also fairly well connected on the train lines to get over to Bristol and London; it’s not all happening in one place so you have to keep moving, exploring and looking around.

​​What challenges have you found in working in Cardiff?

Following a two year residency at the Inc. Space, I had to face the difficult challenge of what to do next, and had to ask myself ‘Do I live in a nice house and have a regular, stable income/normal job? Or do I get the biggest studio possible, carry on with this and do what I love?’ Ultimately, I just could not give up on my artistic practice. My market is mostly split across Cardiff and London at the moment. Both places have very different creative markets so you have to develop specific strategies that appeal to both places and that aim to build strong relationships with clients and art buyers. Pricing the work is always difficult, as you need to find a balance in pricing that is relative to people everywhere. I would like to work towards exhibiting internationally at some point and progress towards a bigger show in London so I can exhibit my largescale paintings.

Graduate prizes and graduate shows have proven to be very great ways to get your work out there fresh from graduating, but they are mostly in London. Exposure on that level, with international visitors in the hundreds, just isn’t possible elsewhere at the moment and especially not in Cardiff. The city needs more opportunities like that to reach people in the art market here.

How successful do you think Cardiff has been at making itself a creative capital, particularly in your area of work?

Cardiff is a relatively affordable place at the moment - despite rent prices gradually going up, it’s a lot more affordable than other UK cities, which is great for creative businesses.

Universities in Cardiff are continuing to develop exciting cross-disciplinary networks through research projects of both lecturers and students – I think that this is a positive step towards gaining connections beyond university and Cardiff. These opportunities also encourage you to explore outside your area of expertise to strengthen your wider knowledge. Programs such as Inc. Space are perfect examples of initiatives that are focused on graduates and prove to be effective in helping set up creative businesses.

Llandough Hospital and Heath Hospital in particular have really expanded their art interests. Both hospitals are working with established and emerging artists to create artwork for hospital collections and to aid patient care, which is amazing for all people involved. Llandough especially have really expanded on their gallery spaces.

In your opinion, which three things need to happen to make Cardiff a more creative city?

Continuing to create great opportunities for emerging or young artists – unpaid internships and contributing our skills for free just does not support anyone. That myth that potential exposure for an artist in return for free work or labour should have died ages ago - paid opportunities for young creatives are so important. As a city, we should have a ‘cultural quarter’, like they have in Liverpool. The council could donate an abandoned/neglected area to creative groups and allow people an affordable way to make work in the city; private landlords need to be looking for long-term creative tenants and be aware of people’s needs. Ripping down old, beautiful buildings that would be perfect for studios or creative space is just not helping anyone, especially when the new constructions that replace our historic, cultural buildings are so characterless and expensive and often remain empty for long periods of time.

It was a very sad moment when howard gardens was demolished after the many years of history in that building and even the history within my relatively short experience there. The dramatic increase of high-rise accommodation across the city is just ridiculous. Losing these places is losing our culture; they’re not being utilised for creative development. I recommend looking at ‘Cardiff now and then’ on Facebook to see how the city has lost a lot of great places and in some cases for very little gain.

What do you think Creative Cardiff should try to achieve?

Bringing younger artists together with fresh opportunities after they have graduated, creating links between artists working here and with other cities. Putting on shows with contemporary artists in the museum would be great. I understand that the museum lost a significant amount, or its whole budget, for purchasing art with arts funding cuts a few years back, so to combat that we should be exhibiting work from interesting artists who are based here. Artes Mundi should also be better advertised; why is it not on every billboard around? It’s the biggest art prize in the UK!

Describe your favourite creative place to work in Cardiff.

It has to be my studio – it’s my safe haven away from everywhere else! It is difficult working anywhere else; working in a coffee shop or public space is just distracting. All the studios i’ve had in Howard Gardens, Llandaff and Adamsdown are places to think freely and properly.

I find that some quieter, independent galleries are good spaces to let your mind wander and allow thoughts to unfold as well as thinking about processes before putting paint to canvas.

Can you pick one creative person in Cardiff who we should go and find out more about?

Zoe Gingell – the co-director of Cardiff MADE. This gallery has been the most influential place to provide me with exciting and challenging opportunities while I’ve been working in Cardiff. The co-directors - Zoë and Josh were mentors to me when I was working in the Inc Space at Cardiff Met. This has led to a number of group shows and my first solo show with made back in 2016.

Zoë’s energy and determination to keep putting on exciting shows is truly incredible. The gallery has no funding and i’m always amazed how they still put out some of the most exciting shows and great opportunities for emerging artists in Cardiff. Without MADE and Cardiff Met I’d never have had the support to get to where I am. It is super important that people with the dedication and drive like Zoë at MADE are recognised for their efforts towards providing a continually rotating program of exhibitions to our communities in Cardiff.

What’s next for you? What projects are on the horizon? What new ideas are you working on?

I am currently creating a new series of paintings working towards my next solo show in May 2018 at the Sustainable Studio in Cardiff. Show dates: Friday 18 May running until 25 May.

The size of the space is huge, giving me a very significant opportunity to display a number of my large-scale paintings in one space for the first time. This is truly very exciting and it will form my biggest show to date.

I have also been working on a project to celebrate the 70th birthday of NHS in July 2018. This is an especially incredible and important project for me, as the nation is at a very crucial point with regards to the future of our NHS.

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