Welsh ( b.1936 - d.2015 )
|Image size||12.2 inches x 6.1 inches ( 31cm x 15.5cm )|
|Frame size||20.9 inches x 14.2 inches ( 53cm x 36cm )|
Valerie Ganz is an acclaimed contemporary Welsh artist who is recognised for her insightful figurative art, especially of workers in industrial settings.
She was born in Swansea in 1936 and started painting at a young age. She attended Swansea College of Art where she studied painting, sculpture and stained glass. She then remained there as a tutor until 1973 when she turned her attention to painting full time. Her first solo exhibition was at the Attic Gallery.
Valerie has spent much of her career depicting the industrial heritage of Wales, from the bombsites of her Swansea childhood to the coalfaces of the South Wales Valleys. She was particularly interested in the mining industry and over the years she worked in fourteen different collieries.
In 1985 she took a house and studio at Six Bells, Abertillery and for the following year she worked at the Six Bells Colliery. She worked alongside the miners, both above ground and at the coalface and in the evenings she made studies of them with their families -at choir practice, in the snooker halls and in the chapel. This work formed the basis of the mining exhibition at the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea in 1986; “Mining in Art” with Josef Herman, Jack Crabtree and Nicholas Evans.
Valerie then spent a year in London, where she set up her studio and worked every day at the Central School of Ballet, capturing images of the dancers. She found a common link between the miners and dancers ‘ Their world is a centralised one and their work depends on trust in the colliery and on their colleagues to work safely, while in ballet the performance depends on the excellence of those around you and their dedication to the craft; when a miner goes underground he’s cut off from the outside world and in the same way a ballet dancer, no matter how big a star he or she is, must line up with the junior members of the company and similarly rely on their professional competence“.
Following on from her time at Six Bells Colliery British Coal commissioned her in 1990 to work at three open case sites, where she again captured the working culture of the men who worked there. This culminated in a further large exhibition.
Valerie went to South Africa several times, where she painted workers in the oil industry, and also travelled into the Patagonian desert in Argentina to paint oilrigs and their workmen.
Her curiosity with “other lives” and interest in figurative drawing has also taken her to New Orleans to paint jazz artists and Swansea Prison to paint offenders, one of which is now in the National Assembly, and various nightclubs to capture dancers and revelers. She has also worked with classical musicians at Dartington Music School and the Brecon Jazz Festival.
She explained her interest in figurative art; “People in their working lives, whether in a deep mine, in the theatre or in a jazz club is what fascinates me and makes me want to study them and try to say something about their achievements”.
Valerie had travelled widely throughout her career, painting the people and also the landscapes of China, France, Italy, India, Namibia, Brazil and Thailand. She has also painted the urban landscapes of New York.
Valerie’s Ganz last major solo exhibition was at the Attic Gallery in Swansea in 2010. In her last years she has been a regular visitor to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, sketching the Ospreys rugby team from the touchline.
Her work is in many public and private collections in the UK and worldwide, including the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; the Palace of Westminster, London; the National Assembly, Cardiff and the National Library of Wales. Her work is highly collectable, especially the early mining works, which capture a life that has all but disappeared over the last generation.
Valerie Ganz is an elected member of the Royal Cambrian Academy.
She died on 28 September 2015 aged 79, after a struggle with ill health.