Glynn Vivian Art Gallery: blog

The Wakelin Award 2015: Alexander Duncan


carved rams horn, mammoth tusk, deer antler. 2015. made in collaboration with peter welsh

carved rams horn, mammoth tusk, deer antler. 2015. made in collaboration with peter welsh

Join us for the presentation of this year’s Wakelin Award which is taking place this Saturday, 5 September at the Grand Theatre in Swansea.

The annual award is given to a Welsh artist, whose work is purchased for the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection. Previous award winners include Robert Harding, David Tress, Pete Davis, Craig Wood, David Garner, Tim Davies, Dick Chappell, Brendan Stuart Burns, Anthony Shapland, Catrin Webster, Jonathan Anderson, Meri Wells, David Cushway, Helen Sear and Clare Woods.

The winner for 2015 is Alexander Duncan.

Alexander Duncan was born in Swansea in 1985, studied at Swansea College of Art (UTSWD), and has recently finished an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London. Alexander Duncan works primarily with sculpture, sought objects, video and photography.

This year’s selector is Tim Davies, Professor of Fine Art at Swansea College of Art (UTSWD). The work he has chosen for the Glynn Vivian Collection is entitled –  like swimming –  a sculptural work made in 2015, which takes the form of a stack of coloured foam floats usually used in swimming pools, but which, significantly,  are made of concrete.

Alexander Duncan, 'like swimming' 2015, Courtesy of the artist

Alexander Duncan, like swimming 2015, Courtesy of the artist

Selector, Tim Davies, says of the work: “Alex has always been interested in where and how we place ourselves in the world, the position of the body in relationship to other objects and situations, which can only be sensed through the actual experience of the materiality of objects. This sculptural work, which resembles a float – a piece of foam bitten scratched and clung to – offers a reflective moment about our connection with water. It suggests how we like to be in control of our environment but, when touched or lifted, this work takes us to an unexpected edge between reality and illusion, provocatively questioning our own sense of such certainties. In a wider context, the accompanying film which Alex is generously gifting to the Gallery – wavy gravy – reflects hundreds of people crammed into an enclosed space – a ‘tsunami experience’ – slowly rising and falling with artificial waves. This work poignantly mixes a strong sense of foreboding with a bizarre otherworldly lightness, questioning the vulnerability of the human condition, and whether in fact we are in control of our future destiny.  Alex has always focused on important contemporary issues, often closely relating to sustainability, and the recent significant and successful developments in his work suggested that this would be an important time to include his work in the Glynn Vivian collection”. 

Alexander Duncan says, “The sculptural works and the film on display were inspired by my interest, as described by Adam Carr, ‘in what is real and what is imitating the real? How we respond to something that is both, or rather, something that sits between these two diverging states?’ I am delighted that my work will be joining this major public collection in Swansea, my home town, and I am pleased to have been selected. The Wakelin Award offers recognition and is enabling for artists such as myself, and I would like to thank the organisers for their generosity. I am sure there are many other artists who will be supported by the Award in time to come”.   

The Award is administered by the Friends of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and is generously supported by donations in memory of Richard and Rosemary Wakelin, who were themselves artists and active supporters of the arts in Swansea. Their son, Dr Peter Wakelin, said, “‘It is important for both artists and museums that current works are added to the collections of the future. We are very grateful to the Friends of the Glynn Vivian for supporting this Award and helping to maintain the Gallery’s reputation as one of the best places to see Welsh art, even in this period when it’s closed during major refurbishment. People are always astonished when they find out how small the purchasing budgets are for public galleries in Wales, which need all the help they can get to represent current Welsh art in their collections.”

Jenni Spencer-Davies, Curator, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery says ‘The Wakelin Award has enabled the Gallery to acquire many significant works for the collection over the last sixteen years. We are very pleased this year to acquire remarkable work by Alexander Duncan, especially as he is a Swansea artist.  The Award is truly supportive of artists working today, and the Gallery is deeply appreciative of the continuing generosity of the Award’s supporters and the Friends of the Glynn Vivian, organisers of the Award. Our warmest thanks also to the artist Alexander Duncan and Tim Davies for making such an informed choice, and to the Grand Theatre for generously hosting the Award this year.’  

The Award will be presented at 3pm, Saturday 5 September at the Grand Theatre. Admission is free.

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