ARTIST Adéọlá Dewis and photographer Catriona Abuneke have unveiled the first commission for the new Billboard Gallery, opening at Llantarnam Grange in Cwmbran tomorrow, Saturday, August 13.

The new gallery will showcase new work by Welsh/Wales-based artists. Each year it will commission and install a new image, sharing the different perspectives, materials and ideas from a range of artists and makers.

By bringing work outside the gallery walls they hope to celebrate and inspire creativity in the wider community.

Artist Adéọlá Dewis was selected as the first commission through an open call in autumn 2021.

This project has been funded by the Arts Council of Wales Cultural Recovery Fund.

South Wales Argus: First commission for the Billboard Gallery at Llantarnam Grange is by Artist Adé?lá Dewis and photographer Catriona Abuneke

Dancing Outside Opens the Road is the new work created by artist Adéọlá Dewis and photographer Catriona Abuneke.

Inspired by Cwmbran’s history of farming and its connections to the tin industry, the piece draws parallels to elements of the Yoruba deity Ogun, the West African god of iron, metal and metal work.

Adéọlá Dewis said: “I felt this juxtaposition helped to link my specific aesthetic with the integrity of this beautiful Welsh town. I brought to this work my passion for honouring women and for allowing opportunity to celebrate them through transformation.”

Artist Naz Syed, of Creative Lives, worked closely with Adéọlá and Catriona to make connections in the local community.

Four women were invited to take part in the photoshoot - Tabassum Ali, Rahila Hamid, Pytsje, and Buhe Ncube.

South Wales Argus: First commission for the Billboard Gallery at Llantarnam Grange is by Artist Adé?lá Dewis and photographer Catriona Abuneke

Dancing Outside Opens the Road will be on display until July 2023.

Adéọlá is a Cardiff-based artist who describes herself as a diaspora artist. Her practice involves drawing, painting, performance, research and writing; and explores themes around ritual, identity, belonging, diaspora, mas(querade), emancipation, celebration, empowerment, masking, movement and transformation.

Catriona Abuneke is a photographer, video artist and teacher. Originally from Scotland, she trained at Leith School of Art, followed by Edinburgh College of Art. Catriona is a qualified Art and Design teacher, has worked as a graphic designer, illustrator and photographer, and was awarded the Gold Echo Award from the IDMA.

Catriona works in collaboration with other creatives and organisations whilst continuing her personal practice in photo and video.

Louise Jones-Williams, director of Llantarnam Grange, said: “Llantarnam Grange opened in 1966 and has remained at the heart of the artistic and social community in Torfaen for more than 50 years.

South Wales Argus: First commission for the Billboard Gallery at Llantarnam Grange is by Artist Adé?lá Dewis and photographer Catriona Abuneke

"As a venue we play a vital role in our community, bringing people together physically and digitally, supporting artists, improving people’s health and well-being, providing opportunities for talented young people and encouraging creativity for all.

"The pandemic changed how we thought about presenting artists’ work and we decided we wanted to find new and exciting ways to engage with our local community.

"We wanted to broaden the public’s access to culture by commissioning and installing artwork on the outside of our building for everyone in Cwmbran to enjoy, communicating that visual art has a home in Cwmbran, with Llantarnam Grange at the centre.

"We are thrilled to share the piece created by Adéọlá Dewis for our first Billboard Gallery commission which both celebrates local history and embraces the diversity of communities in this area.

"We aim to bring the transformative power of the arts to as wide an audience as possible and this project aims to remove the barriers which may be experienced by community members who have yet to visit us, making art accessible to everyone before they even enter the building. We hope to continue this type of work which aims to energise public spaces, inspiring and connecting people.”

Naz Syed, Creative Lives, said: “It is really special to be a part of the first billboard project, from being part of the artist selection, to connecting the community and sharing their stories.

"To be bringing such diverse artwork to the Grange and exhibiting work in the urban landscape for more people to experience it and showcase diverse artists and art really matters. I can't wait to see Adéọlá 's artwork unveiled and see the people who were part of its faces when they see themselves celebrated and in the spotlight. They each brought compassion, community spirit and a warm energy, with such rich stories of heritage and belonging.”

Tabassum Ali, one of the people featured in the billboard, said: “I have felt privileged and quite honoured to be involved. Because I feel I am just the same as everyone else. To be part of someone else's vision it’s quite special. Doing new things for me opens up my mind. I need those challenges outside of work and family.”