James Donovan (b Aberdare, Wales, 1974) is a painter who explores valleys, culture and the influence that our past has on our present and future.
Since his student days at Swansea Institute of Higher Education, Donovan?s paintings have been exhibited widely across Wales and in London. His early work was heavily influenced by stories passed on to him by his father and grandfather, both of whom were employed in the mining industry. Many of these stories were fuelled by the success of the Tower Colliery, a mine deemed worthless by the authorities and government but recognised by its workers as having potential who went on to run the mine themselves.
The romantic ideal of the miner is viewed and interpreted in a comedic, but respectful manner, in many of Donovan?s images. He understands the importance of history and heritage and the way in which it forms our opinions and outlook. .
The resulting paintings may, at first glance, appear clumsy but they pose some serious questions; they investigate the changes in attitude towards the close-knit neighbourhoods of his childhood and the effect of huge unemployment on the people in his home town. Donovan?s own father was made redundant from his role as an electrician, an event that affected and enhanced his view of a role model that had an enormously positive influence on his development as a man and artist. .
More recent works however have signalled changes in the painter?s approach to this theme. The movement and symbolism is still present, but the influence of history is represented more in the ?breeze?; a metaphor for the passage of time and the influence of what has gone before as it forms the present.