Arts Council of Wales | Wales in Venice 2019 - Sean Edwards
Back to all news

Wales in Venice 2019 - Sean Edwards

Collateral Event of the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 11 May – 24 November 2019 Chiesa di S.M. Ausiliatrice,Fondamenta San Gioacchin,Castello 450, Venezia Open 11:00 – 18:00, Tues – Sunday (Closed Mondays) Refrain is a live radio commission and will be broadcast daily 14.00 08 Mar 2019

the Artist Sean Edwards
Portrait of Sean Edwards taken by Antonio Olmos

Sean Edwards (b.1980) will represent Wales in Venice 2019 with a solo exhibition presented by guest curator Marie-Anne McQuay and lead organisation Tŷ Pawb. Commissioned by Arts Council of Wales for the Collateral Event of the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Edwards’ exhibition marks the ninth Biennale presentation by Wales. The exhibition will be held at Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, Castello from 11 May to 24 November 2019 and is free to visit.

Edwards’ poetic inquiry into place, politics and class, intertwined with personal histories, is his first major presentation at an international biennale. The exhibition is the artist’s most ambitious and emotionally resonant to date.

Sean Edwards will use the ornate surroundings of the Church and former convent to present a series of interrelated works - sculptures, film, prints and quilts - which take their starting point as the artist’s experience of growing up on a council estate in Cardiff in the 1980s. In this new body of work, Edwards is interested in capturing and translating what he calls a condition of ‘not expecting much’ into a shared visual language; one that evokes a way of living that is familiar to a great number of people; a way of making do and getting by.

Known for his sculptural approach to the everyday, Edwards’ work often begins with elements that are seemingly unrelated but linked by autobiographical and cultural connections. These could range from the 1970s shopping centre near the estate where he grew up, a Welsh quilting group, the singer Bruce Springsteen’s album Nebraska, snooker, tabloid newspapers, music clips and various found materials. Through also looking in archives and libraries, the artist pulls together stories, images, quotes and clips. It is in the teasing out of these things in the studio, in isolating, abstracting and bringing them together, that their formal and political potential comes into play.

The exhibition also contains a time-based sound work; Refrain is a new radio commission produced in partnership with National Theatre Wales. A live broadcast performed by the artist’s mother will be transmitted to Venice from her council home in Cardiff. The script draws on personal experience and found materials. Her voice, elderly, accented by her Northern Irish background and not familiar to making a public address, will at times hesitate and repeat. With her kind permission and collaboration, this voice becomes part of the work, shifting the atmosphere of the exhibition with its presence and absence.

During the Venice Biennale, in November 2019, National Theatre Wales will present a version of Refrain at Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham. The full exhibition will then tour back to the UK, appearing at Tŷ Pawb, Wrexham in the spring of 2020 before moving on to Bluecoat, Liverpool in winter 2020. This activity is kindly supported by Art Fund.

On being selected for Wales in Venice 2019 Sean Edwards commented: "I am so honoured to be part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale. I am grateful to receive support from Arts Council of Wales and lead organisation Tŷ Pawb, curator Marie-Anne McQuay, assistant curator Louise Hobson and from the artists and technicians who are part of the wider team. The exhibition and accompanying publication contains many voices and acts of generosity and collaboration all of which will be acknowledged in the final presentation."

Curator Marie-Anne McQuay commented: "I’m delighted to be part of the team presenting Sean Edwards’ first solo exhibition at an international biennale on behalf of Arts Council of Wales, lead organisation Tŷ Pawb and the wider Welsh visual arts sector. Together, we are attempting to make a show which, with intimacy and tenderness, reflects on and gives value to the quiet lives lived in the margins of ‘interesting times’.


A team of 18 artists, educators, curators and students will support the Wales in Venice team. The Invigilator Plus programme will offer hands-on experience of working in Venice, networking with international peers and a personal development programme.

Registered Charity Number 1034245