Steve Knapik MBE tells us all about his exhibition, ‘A Postcard from Wales’ which is opening at the Senedd on the 27th of July 2019.
I am an artist, but I am also passionate about my work with the Blue Balloon Children’s Charity. Through this charity, many people work hard to improve children’s lives in Wales. A few years ago, I wanted to help Blue Balloon by organising a huge art project to create a very, very big landscape artwork; so big in fact, that I hoped to break the Guinness World Record for the Longest Continuing Landscape artwork. I knew that this would be a lot of work, so I asked for help from many different people, including primary school pupils, groups supporting people living with dementia, and pupils from schools for those with additional needs. It was important to me to get a range of people involved so that we could make sure that the project was inclusive and welcoming to all.
We worked hard for five years. It took a lot of work to organise everything, but it was worth it when I could see the excitement and enjoyment on everyone’s face. If we were to break the Guinness World Record we needed at least 30,000 drawings, so there was a lot of work to be done! Each drawing had lines showing where the mountains and sky were, and this meant that the drawings could be joined together to create one large joined artwork. I saw a lot of creative talent and imaginative ways of thinking about our landscapes. For example, some primary school children used blocks of coloured stripes to represent fields.
Everyone was excited about our World Record attempt. Even the Liberty Stadium in Swansea was ready for us to display over 5 miles of original, joined up drawings…
And then, bad news! We discovered that our project couldn’t be registered as a World Record. I felt very sad and disappointed. What was I going to do with all these fantastic drawings? But I was determined not to be defeated. These amazing artworks deserved to be on display. I needed an iconic, important building to show the talent and creativity that I had seen in children all over Wales.
I got in touch with the National Assembly for Wales and I met Alice, who is a curator there. She works with artists to organise exhibitions. Where better for these brilliant artworks than the Senedd, the home of democracy in Wales, where people make important decisions about what happens in our country? Alice and I met a few times to come up with the best solution to display the artwork in the Senedd, and finally we were ready to put the exhibition together for everyone to enjoy.
I feel that the Senedd will be the perfect place to show our artwork, and I am looking forward to getting even more people involved, by encouraging visitors to the Senedd to make postcards to send, and to celebrate a lot of exciting things that are happening at the Assembly this year…
The 20th Anniversary of the National Assembly for Wales.
It was such an honour to be chosen to be part of this important celebration. The National Assembly for Wales was created twenty years ago, and the Senedd is the perfect place for a big celebration. The building is open to the public, and I’m very pleased to ask YOU the public to come in and take part in creating your own, unique landscape to continue the project. I hope you have as much fun as over 30,000 children and adults had before you, taking part in our project.
The Welsh Youth Parliament
In February this year the Welsh Youth Parliament, made of 60 young people aged 11 – 18, met for the first time. We want to help celebrate this wonderful event and stand alongside the 60 members who represent every part of Wales. Each member has a big interest in a part of life that affects young people today. It is so important for our young people to have a voice, and the Youth Parliament work hard to make sure that that voice is heard. Some members of the Youth Parliament even took part in my project when they were at school!
In many ways the motto of the Blue Balloon Children’s charity, ‘Today’s hope for a better tomorrow’ can also be applied to these young people who represent the voices of all young people in Wales –helping to make a difference.
The Arts as part of our Welsh identity.
Wales as a nation has a strong sense of belonging and identity. This is shown in so many ways, especially through the arts. We celebrate Wales as the Land of Song, so music is a strong part of our heritage; but so are poetry, drama and the visual arts. Inspiration comes from many sources. Artists have for many centuries been fascinated by the landscapes of Wales: the mountains, sea and sky.
It is important that we take a close look at our immediate environment, and whilst talking to people young and less young throughout the project, we talked about many issues that are having an effect on where we live. The environment around us can help to start discussion, and we showed our feelings about our environment through our landscape artworks. We must never lose sight of the importance the arts plays in society and how it can be very positive for our wellbeing and sense of who we are.