by Janet Kaiser

History & Introduction

Howard Coles studied sculpture at Cardiff College of Art - became heavily involved with photography and printmaking in the Far East and continued to develop his painting during a long career in art education.

Working from his studio in North Wales, Howard's artistic climate involves a seemingly dichotomous role. As a painter intuitively constructing paintings on the one hand while on the other revealing the landscape via comparatively restrictive practices of photography. The two areas have embracing themes - a desire to prolong each visual experience, a reaction to a whole range of sensations, and to bring into play any enrichment which lies within sensitive use of paint or film.


In an environment which has inspired many artists Howard Coles continues to discover within himself new ways of expressing his particular view of visual reality. He argues it is not so much his passion as the environment which inspires and injects vigour and forthrightness into his work. It is, he says, an area which daily brings new sensations. It is ever changing and provides for an artists celebration of this challenging and evocative environment.


His painting agenda is one in which the interaction of water and land, of weather and light dominates his images and pushes his techniques. Seemingly all embracing, the coastal landscape sustains his vision. It creates an impetus which enables the phenomena of light on sea and shore to be observed. It calls for new ways to impart to paper and canvas a variety of treatments which re-create the play of light on water. The activity of the coastline is the principal theme in Howard's art. Structures and spaces where sea meets land and the elemental forces which has formed this boundary has resulted in some of his best work.

Howard's paintings reflect the nuances of shape and form, of drama and visual interest which is bound up in his coastal landscapes. At times his work is frank, edgy and dark. Other work indicates a softness that is transcribed from the more gentile elements of this environment. Literal elements in much of his work are subservient to his feeling for the abstract, the synthesis of the visual and the sensual, - the expectations of any given landscape and the private confrontations with the more meaningful focus on what is being expressed in his work. This ranges from large heavily pigmented oil paintings of cliff faces and rock formations which tell tale upheavals in the creation of the landscape, to subtle, colour washed observations of light and atmosphere. From his visits into this powerful landscape he aims to extract out of the whole gamut of visual experiences something which will provide an essence -not so much as an idea to be developed, but experiences which are given form by their exposure to things observed and sensed.

Methods & Media

Howard's principal medium is mixed media. His painting methods involve the handling of materials in various measures, - the determined exactness of the printmaker, the feeling for form of the sculptor and a painters spontaneity and unruly experiment. Paint is spattered, dripped, bled and removed - Painting conventions are frequently challenged in order to move to a portrayal of his perception of the landscape. Manipulation of colour and tone although lodged in visual perception, serves to express not only the seen aspects but a whole gamut of sensory experiences. His larger paintings reveals complex techniques. He will often reject the formal and the stereotyping of any technique which he feels has become so mannered that it masks the power which intuitive mark making brings to a painting. In his work the "true" and the "comfortable" are not significant factors either in his preparation or finished work. Much of his preparatory work is sustained by the drama of the landscape and the changes which seasons bring to it. Winter for example, with its limited palette and strong dramatic light creates its own angst .


Surface elements are important and a range of textures ensures that no one passage of a work is bereft of tactile interest. Each painting has abstract as well as descriptive, literal passages with expressive gestural marks dominating the surface of each painting. Pigment of one viscosity is bled into one of a different viscosity, - brushwork is scumbled across surfaces and scratching out creates energy that adds bite to his work.

This direct and energetic mark making is as integral an element in his canvasses as it is in his fine prints. It all serves to create that important momentary impression and captures our attention.



He has had numerous one man and group shows. Recently elected to the Royal Cambrian Academy he continues to work mainly within Wales, National collections in Malaysia and Singapore hold his work and much can be found in the hands of private individuals in America, Australia, India and Europe. For more info see the exhibitions section