Niki Pilkington’s Welsh homecoming brings biggest exposure ever

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Pictures by Niki Pilkington

Lowri Llewelyn

Niki Pilkington will return to Wales this Sunday for his greatest exhibition ever – specifically, the Llŷn, where it all started. The exhibition will take place at Oriel Plas Glyn Y Weddw, Llanbedrog.

Having lived in Paris, New York and Los Angeles for the better part of a decade, she explains: “Glyn y Weddw has such a special place in my heart – it was the first place that gave me an exhibition after getting my degree in 2009.’

After graduating in fashion illustration in 2009, Niki returned from London and took a part-time job at the Oriel to think about her next move.

Many gallery volunteers were retired and had spent their lives on the peninsula, re-exposing Niki to the traditional words, phrases and proverbs that became a hallmark of her future work and launched a career as an illustrator and influencer.

“I only had the work I did in college to show them!” She keeps. “It was a momentous exhibition for me; it made me believe that I could make a career out of it. For so long, I wanted another exhibition with them… It’s a return to my roots.

The 65-piece exhibit, titled Dathliad (celebration), will run from May 15 to July 10. “It’s first and foremost a celebration of the Welsh language through my eyes. It’s also a celebration of my return to Wales, my coming out of Covid and my pregnancy!

Statement pieces

How does this exhibition compare to the first?

“I love looking back at what I did back then. I’m still learning from it. I had more time then because social media wasn’t really a thing, and my career was just getting started. , so I used to spend days and weeks obsessing over each piece, whereas now the temptation is to finish quickly so I can share online.

“Social media adds an extra pressure that didn’t exist all those years ago. Looking back reminds me to slow down and enjoy the process, because these are ultimately the pieces I’m most proud of.

Besides the detailed renditions of young women that have earned her such devotion from her key demographic – “And neon, of course!” – the exhibition will include a wall of painted typography pieces.

“Many are idioms and phrases that reminded me of talking with family and friends overseas and immediately brought me back to Wales; there’s one that says ‘Rargol’, and I think that’s such a brilliant word!

“These are statement pieces designed to make people smile. What I did with this wall was make it more affordable, because not everyone can usually afford to buy original artwork.

Glyn Y Weddw is one of 50 galleries in Wales participating in the Collectorplan scheme which allows UK residents to pay a 10% deposit and repay a loan over up to 12 months.

Support

Niki hopes this exhibition will be as popular as the first one.

“When Oriel asked me what time of year I would like to exhibit, I asked for a combination of term and semester.

“So many schools came to see my first exhibition and I hope they come back – it’s so nice to see them studying my work and creating their own interpretations. I really hope this inspires local students to choose art as a career.

She concludes: “I was always so surprised when I moved that people kept buying my work.

“The Welsh in particular support each other so much, and that meant so much to me. This exhibition is a thank you to the fans who have supported me from the very beginning.

Visit the exhibition between May 15 and July 10 and more details can be found here


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