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In the Glynn Vivian Open Exhibition

Exhibition - Emma Cownie 2019

The Opening night of an “Open” exhibition is an affair full of nervous energy! This is because 90% of people in the room are artists who are all relieved/happy to have their work included in the exhbition in the first place and secondly have come to see where their painting/s have ended up? Are they in a corner? Can they be seen?

Open Exhibition is where the organisers invite or “call” for artists to submit their work (for a small fee). The best works are then selected to be included in the exhibition. There are massive national exhibitions (like the BP Portrait Prize) that are so massive that they have a preliminary round where digital photos are first sent for consideration. The Glynn Vivian, does it the old fashioned way by requiring artists to bring their paintings to gallery for submission. You can submit up to two works each. As, it’s only open to artists living in the Swansea area, it’s not too onerous to drop in the paintings.


All artists fear rejection. We are sensitive souls. So to have to face the prospect of being rejected (one or two paintings) isn’t pleasant. Inclusion isn’t automatic, even if your work has been included before (I was in 2017), especially as the people doing the choosing (or “curating”) change every year. This year’s curators were Richard Billingham and Durre
Shahwar. Richard is a photographer and filmer maker who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001. Shahwar is a writer, editor, and creative facilitator. Thankfully they chose both of the works I submitted.

I had deliberately decided to arrive an hour into the Opening party as I remember it being very crowded to last time I came in 2017. It was still very crowded at 3pm and the numbers only really thinned out after 4pm. There were 245 pieces in the exhibition. The two rooms in the gallery were filled to the brim with paintings (and artists). were overwhelmingly 2D art. Paintings, sketches and prints, but there were films and sculptures too.

Crowded Glynn Vivian Open
Crowded Glynn Vivian Open

Of course, the first thing I did was try and find my paintings. They were in the second room. I was initially surprised to see that they were not together but had been arranged separately as part of themed groups of colours. I thought that the arrangement worked well. It’s a funny feeling seeing your paintings in amongst lots of other paintings. It’s like a familiar face amongst a crowd of strangers.

There’s no way I can get a photo of both paintings, I thought. Actually, for a long time, I could not get a photo of each painting as the gallery was so crowded.

Spring Light on Gola (top centre)
Spring Light on Gola (top centre)
Spring Light on Gola (top centre)
Spring Light on Gola (top centre)

For some reason, people stood in front of my second painting, Autumn in the Rosses for the longest time.  Different groups of people too. So I had to wait quite a while to get a photo of it and even then I had a person’s shadow on it!

Spot my painting?
Spot my painting?
Autumn in the Rosses (top left)
Autumn in the Rosses (top left)

It wasn’t just me trying to get a photo of my work. These artists were very excited about being in the exhibition. Their joy was a delight to see.


"Textile Bouquet" by Eleanor Anne Owens
“Textile Bouquet” by Eleanor Anne Owens

There was so much to look at in the exhibition. There was such a variety of work too. Here are just a few that caught my eye. The most affecting work were the two bird sculptures by Mike Hill. One was made of fishing tackle detritus and the other was in the shape of a cormorant smothered in tar.  In fact, the tar-bird was so affecting that I had to fight back the tears. There were quite a few works that touched up the climate emergency and waste but these two, in my opinion, were the most powerful ones.

What are we Doing? What Have we Done? No.1 and No2.
What are we Doing? What Have We Done? No.1 and No2.
What are we Doing? What Have we Done? No.1 and No2.
What are we Doing? What Have we Done? No.1 and No2.
Dafydd Williams “A Coded Reverie”
Steve Pleydell "Margot"
Steve Pleydell “Margot”
Amanda Puleston "Doolin, Ireland"
Amanda Puleston “Doolin, Ireland” – It’s knitted art!


I particularly liked the animal/nature themed wall.

I also really liked Myles Lawrence Mansfield ” Rejections/Acceptance Machine”. I liked it even more when it was explained to me that it moved when you turned to handle! I always like things that do something. Thinking about it now, it may well have been a comment on the life of an artist!

Myles Lawrence Mansfield ” Rejections/ Acceptance Machine”

I had to pleasure of meeting fellow artist Wendy Sheridan in real life (after many online interactions via social media).  She very kindly took my photo!

Emma Cownie Exhibition
Me at the Glynn Vivian

I would highly recommend visiting the Glynn Vivian to see all the works in the Open Exhibition. It’s on until 23rd February (closed on Mondays) and is free!

Find about more about the Open Exhibition here 

31 thoughts on “In the Glynn Vivian Open Exhibition

  1. Congratulations, Emma, on this achievement and recognition.

      1. Thanks for following, Emma. Hope you become a reader.

  2. Excellent, Emma, and well deserved. Your paintings look really great and stand out amongst the others.

    1. Thank you so much Jessica.

  3. First off, congratulations on getting both of your entries into the show! I know the excitement of the huge receptions and also the difficulty of viewing anything amid the crowds. Sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the party and come back a second day to enjoy the art🙂

    1. That’s good advice (although I am not a party person), which is why I tried to go at the end of the reception.

  4. Congratulations, Emma – well deserved! And thank you for posting all these photos of the exhibition.

    1. Thank you, Annabelle. There were many, many more pieces. Well worth a visit.

  5. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing the event with us. You should be proud of your work on display. It looks so good. The acceptance rejection piece/sculpture reminds me of some of the Taxis work I saw at the Tate Modern. Anyway…Congratulations!

      1. Oh my! Thanks for that link!😄

      2. Its been the cause of much merriment/spoofs in the press!

  6. Your work looks very fine here, Emma. You must be very proud!

    1. Yes, indeed. I also worked out that my paintings were hanging on the same wall where a big Picasso painting was hung the year before (different exhibition, obviously), so that made me smile.

  7. Congratulations Emma👏Excellent works..
    Each painting gave each story, some are untold 🙂
    Thanks a lot for sharing those paintings Emma..
    Stay Blessed!

      1. You’re welcome Emma!

  8. Big congrats Emma for having both paintings included. They are beautiful, and yes, I spotted yours right away..! Thanks for sharing photos of those fun pieces of art. I’d love to visit the show, but it’s pretty unlikely I will.

    1. Lordy, I dont expect people to visit unless they live near by, certainly not if they are living in another country, Pam! Thank you for your kind words!

  9. Such a lot of work on display, Emma! It’s a wonderful showcase. 🙂 🙂 That’s one thing about blogging- you don’t have to face rejection.

    1. That’s very true, Jo!!! Thank you for pointing that out!

  10. congratulations Emma! Your passion has flowered into a beautiful garden of art.

    1. Thank you so much, Wayne.

    2. Thank you, Wayne (apologies if I have already thanked you, I cant tell on my wordpress reader).

  11. Exciting Emma, Congratulations! Beautiful works at the exhibition,

    1. Thank you so much, Jennifer!

  12. It looks like a lovely show, and YAY, you got in again! It is neat to see your beautiful works there with the other art. Like you said, a familiar face in a crowd.
    The tar bird and the fishing tackle bird make me feel so sad, too. I see so much fishing line abandoned everywhere I go around here. (We have a lot of lakes) Global warming, of course, is a big issue, but to me pollution is just as bad. It breaks my heart to see how the world has changed from when I was a child.

    1. Thank you, Melissa. I am planning to go back in the New Year and have another look at all the works. I think I missed at least half of them and only took photos of about 3%!

      1. Yes, it looks like a massive show.

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