Islwyn Watkins

Islwyn Watkins was born in Tonypandy in 1938. He studied at Cardiff College of Art from 1954 until 1959 and was initially attracted to, and influenced by the work of the St Ives’ artists. In 1959 several of his paintings were selected by the Welsh Committee of the Arts Council of Great Britain for it’s ‘Young Welsh Artists’ exhibition. From 1959 until 1964 Watkins taught art at Ravenscroft School, Barnet and then studied lithography at Hornsey College of Art. At Hornsey he became a lifelong friend and collaborator with the anarchic and multi-talented Jeff Nuttall. Following a brief period teaching in Leeds, Watkins then left for the US, taking a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

On his return to the U.K. Watkins became a lecturer at Birmingham’s School of Art Education and in 1976 exhibited at ‘Midland Art Now’ at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. He took part in many group shows in Wales, in London and elsewhere in the U.K. and was given one-man shows at the University of Birmingham and the New Art Gallery, Rugby.

In 1978, disillusioned with educational developments, he moved to Shropshire and involved himself in the local art world. He was appointed chair of the Association of Artists and Designers in Wales and the Welsh Group. With an irrepressible enthusiasm and zeal for art he continued to exhibit regularly and, in order to encourage a dialogue with the people, displayed his work in local shops and cafes. He also ran a celebrated antique country pottery business in his adopted town of Knighton, Powys on the Welsh borders. Lively and imaginative, Watkins was a showman, stimulating and often mischievous in conversation. He continued to show his artwork and from 1994 worked as curator of the Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery in Brecon.

Having made constructions and reliefs throughout his career a group of these striking, Kurt Schwitters-inspired ‘assemblages’ was selected for Watkins’ final exhibition at the Old College, Aberystwyth in 2018. He died the following year.

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