David L Carpanini was born in Glamorgan in 1946. He was trained at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Cheltenham, the Royal College of Art and the University of Reading. He was Professor of Art at the University of Wolverhampton from 1992 to 2000 and President of the Royal Society of Painter - Printmakers from 1995 to 2003. In 1969 he won the British Institutions Awards Committees Annual Scholarship for engraving and has since exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and in numerous other major group and solo exhibitions in the UK and abroad. Click on 'Artists A - Z' (above) to view his paintings and drawings held in the gallery.
His work has been the subject of three television documentaries and has been acquired by numerous prestigious collections including; the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, Newport Museum and Art Gallery, Her Majesty the Queen, Windsor, National Museum of Wales, National Library of Wales, Contemporary Art Society of Wales, British Steel, Rank Xerox, British National Oil Corporation, National Coal Board, Government Art Collection DOE, Ashmolean Museum Oxford, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge as well as many University and College collections.
Whilst most of his work is devoted to the presentation of the valleys and former mining communities of South Wales he has also undertaken numerous portrait commissions. More recently he has begun to explore his Italian roots with a series of drawings and etchings of the towns and landscapes of northern and central Italy.
He is a painter and printmaker devoted to the plain complete statement which leaves little to chance and yet, if made with sufficient authority can distil poetry from those ordinary and everyday facts which can go almost unnoticed by most of us. Although solidly representational his pictures speak eloquently of abstracts - fear, isolation, and survival. They are set in Wales but the statements he makes are not confined to the Welsh valleys and the feelings they evoke are international. The titles of his works often have a strong poetic resonance and hint at more personal motivations underlying the characters depicted, and his own ideas of creativity and intent.
David Carpanini contributed to the 2004 Attic Gallery exhibition - Visions of the Valleys - which featured 10 artists and their response to living in or observing the South Wales industrial valleys. In March 2015, BBC Wales broadcast a TV programme, Visions of the Valleys, which followed the same theme.
David Carpanini was elected: RE 1982 (ARE 1979); RWA 1983 (ARWA 1977); RBA 1976; NEAC 1983; RCA 1992; Hon RWS 1996; Hon RBSA 2000.
Speaking of his work in 'Art Review' in June 1998, Carpanini said;
"My inspiration lies in the contemplation of the familiar. I believe that man has a special bond, a special relationship with that part of Earth which nourishes his boyhood and it is in the valleys and former mining communities of South Wales, scarred by industrialisation but home for a resolute people that I have found the trigger for my creative imagination. The stark landscape and close knit, often claustrophobic social infrastructure are a fundamental part of my own background and I have attempted to use the natural drama of this location to explore aspects of the human condition such as fear, isolation, loneliness, brutality, dignity, pride and hope.
All my paintings and prints are studio assemblages, unhurried distillations of sketchbook observations and visual memories. I have always made extensive use of small notebooks. These are working tools in which I make records of both a graphic and literary nature. These observations are not always put to immediate use; indeed months, even years may elapse before a particular theme is explored further. It is from this reservoir of materials that my pictures grow. The design and manner of any work arises as a natural process of growth and evolution; as an extension of object and purpose, not imposed in a preconceived way."
Western Mail Article - David Carpanini Exhibition: 10 May 2014 - 31 May 2014
by Jenny White
One of the most distinguished living painters of Wales, David Carpanini’s new show at Swansea’s Attic Gallery – his first for three years – shows him at the height of his powers, writes Jenny White.
From sombre Valleys streets to the luscious landscape of northern Italy, David Carpanini is a virtuoso performer whose work is deeply connected with his own Welsh Italian heritage. Hot on the heels of a major retrospective of his work in his hometown of Leamington Spa he is exhibiting a new body of work at Swansea’s Attic Gallery, the result of two years’ intense labour, both in the UK and in Italy.
Born in the Afan Valley in 1946, Carpanini trained at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Cheltenham; the Royal College of Art and the University of Reading and is a member of many prestigious groups including the New English Art Club, the Royal Cambrian Academy, the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Society of British Artists. He may have lived in England for many years but his focus on the landscape and people of his childhood home remains as strong as ever.
“My inspiration lies in the contemplation of the familiar,” he says. “I believe that man has a special bond, a special relationship with that part of the Earth which nourished his boyhood and it is in the valleys and former mining communities of South Wales, scarred by industrialisation but home to a resolute people that I found the trigger for my creative imagination.”
It has often been noted, however, that the work is far from parochial; instead, he uses his subject matter to embrace universal themes. As he puts it, “I have attempted to use the natural drama of the location to explore aspects of the human condition such as fear, isolation, loneliness, brutality, dignity, pride and hope.”
These effects are in no small part due to the poetic tensions created by his skilful composition. Carpanini considers himself lucky to have been educated at a time when such ‘traditional’ drawing and painting skills were routinely taught in art colleges.
“For me the process of design is crucial to articulating my thoughts and feelings about the objects that I’m actually looking at,” he says. “In order to do that, there are mechanisms and processes and well tried devices that have been used for many hundreds of years. These are the kinds of things I was taught and have always found very important.”
Partly because of this, all his paintings and prints are studio assemblages, unhurried distillations of sketchbook observations, photographs and visual memories. He keeps many of his notes for months or even years before they find their perfect place in one of his pictures.
Each piece begins with serial drawings – a process of searching for the right grouping of figures and their correct relationship to an appropriate setting, anticipating that the eventual combination of forms will prove emotionally expressive and, as he says, “decoratively striking.”
Depending on the image he is working on, he will decide whether to tackle this in colour or through printmaking.
“The printmaking is not a separate issue,” he says. “It’s something which evolves depending on the nature of the subject. I make prints of subjects that seem to be better resolved within the context of printmaking.”
As is typical of his etchings, those in his latest show are dramatic, black and white images, yet in his mind they are “colourful”.
“I’ve never felt the need to colour them in the conventional application of that word; I see them as a process of markmaking,” he says. “The acquisition and application of that knowledge is something I have always delighted in. You cannot be certain what’s going to happen – it’s always a surprise and a delight.”
In contrast to these, and to his paintings of the Valleys, his Italy work – which forms a substantial part of his new show – feels warmer and, as he puts it, “less hard edged.” Italy has featured in his work for many years but plays a bigger part in this exhibition, due to his having spent a significant amount of time in Northern Italy and Tuscany.
It is thrilling to see him embracing the subject with the same level of fluency he brings to the Welsh Valleys, yet with a new gentleness – a change he attributes to not only the gentleness of the countryside but also the fact that he is now “a different age.”
As with the Welsh Valleys, a fascination and familiarity have developed over the years. For Carpanini, this is not a new subject but a continuation of what he has always done.
“I’m a watcher of people and an observer of circumstance and it’s taken many years to start seeing it as a subject I can explore,” he says. “It’s a delight to have the opportunity to extend one’s experience, but I don’t really see it as being terribly different to what I’ve ever done. The Italian landscapes do have a certain similarity to the rolling valleys and hills of Wales.”