From cinematic landscapes and familiar structures, to ice cream vans and tourist tat - who doesn't love a day at the seaside?

A new exhibition by acclaimed artist and photographer, Jon Pountney, aims to explore what it is about the Welsh coast that makes us tick, and what our seaside resorts say about our society. 

"Seaside life is in my blood, since growing up for a time in Filey, North Yorkshire," Jon told The National

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

"So I’m attracted to seaside resorts as places where life is slightly weird and surreal, where the past and present mingle quite freely.

"It’s a totally sentimental view, and it’s absolutely meant to be; it’s such an elemental part of the British/Welsh experience that the language and the narrative of the work is something that everyone can understand.

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

"I don’t make work for artists or photographers, I make work for the public to enjoy.

"I love Wales, and I hope everyone can see that love in the work."

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

Jon has spent fifteen years on an odyssey around Wales, documenting the sometimes strange but always charming nooks and crannies of this country.

His lens captures often overlooked scenes from these familiar settings, showing us ordinary human moments and pointing at the beauty of the mundane - all bathed in the extraordinary light his eye catches.

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

Whether photographing chip forks, Victorian piers or Waltzers, Jon's love for his subject is clear. This love, coupled with his familiarity with his subject matter, translates into authentic storytelling.

The inspiration for 'Wales at the Seaside' started while on a trip to Barry Island, he explained, when he captured a striking image of Whitmore Bay during a storm.

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

"It was a total fluke, but it was about being in the moment and putting yourself in the position to get a picture. You can’t make work sat on the sofa!"

"I’d say that for about the past 5 years I’ve become good enough as an artist to grasp what I want to make work about."

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

It was a family trip to the seaside at a young age which left a lasting impression on him, he said.

"Seen from our family Mini in the early 1980’s, the view of the derelict Filey Butlins holiday park, with its empty pools and faded Art Deco grandeur, left an indelible mark on my imagination, as did the excitement of the colours and sounds of local amusement arcades," said Jon.

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

"The predominant places I’ve photographed have been working class resorts like Barry Island and Porthcawl, but my favourite place to photograph is the posher Llandudno.

"It has all the hallmarks of a Victorian/early 20th C resort - pier, promenade, funicular railway, paddling pools; it really has it all. I absolutely love it.

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

"The other day I managed a quick few hours in Borth, a place I haven’t visited before, after dropping some prints to Aberystwyth.

"Travelling north up a very narrow road, I reached the top of the hill, and was greeted by the incredible view down onto Borth and beyond, over the Dyfi to the mountains.

The National Wales: © Jon Pountney© Jon Pountney

"It’s a quintessentially Welsh view, and I thought - this isn’t a bad way to make a living."

The Wales at the Seaside exhibition launches tomorrow night (June 24 2022) at TEN gallery in Cardiff. It will run until 30 July 2022. 

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