"It is the accumulation of graffiti: layers of messages jostling for space, words that have been scratched out and tiny pencil doodles filling the gaps"

Neale Howells was born in Neath, South Wales studied at Bath Art College graduating in 1990. His studio is based in Port Talbot where he often invites people in to discuss the work and raise questions about what contemporary art is. He has worked with various creative people in wales in music and film. His work has grown through a reputation of creating imaginative provocative works that the viewer can come back to time and time again to see new things.

Neale Howells is one of very few painters whose work still excites the strongest emotions in people. Amongst artists he is possibly the only one in the last thirty years to have earned the double laurels of suffering not one, but two exhibitions to be closed down before they had a chance to open. And yet the barely legible scrawls that run through his paintings and have upset some Councils usually originate in nothing more sinister than snatches of conversation from the edited contents of a Radio Wales phone-in or the afternoon play on Radio 4. In Howell’s work they provide a visual rhythm to the painting, a meaningless, background noise that is later obliterated by drips of paint or the outline of a figure.

The work is not graffiti because it never appears to be a single person’s message. It is the accumulation of graffiti: layers of messages jostling for space, words that have been scratched out and tiny pencil doodles filling the gaps. Sometimes a huge aerosol figure or a sprayed tag will be the final layer of a painting that seems to represent decades of abuse but shares the same fascinating beauty you find lifting the lid of an old school desk.

Howells is surprisingly meticulous about his painting. The work may give the appearance of being created without thought but in reality he keeps a tight control over the many disparate elements that weave their way through each picture. You cannot describe chaos by being chaotic any more than you can describe fear by screaming and the works’ haphazard beauty is a hard-won battle. Occasionally visitors to his studio feel compelled to have a go themselves and Neale, being the good-natured person he is, readily hands over a brush. Yet it always ends in him repainting the panel. To convey the sort of random accumulation of marks so convincingly and on such a huge scale requires a disciplined vision and an incredible delicacy of touch. The two characteristics one would least expect to discover on first coming across Howells’s work.


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Selected Works

Solo Exhibitions 

2020 Return of Forever, John Martin Gallery Chelsea, London
2017  Recent Paintings, John Martin Gallery, London
2014 It’s Nothing Without You, John Martin Gallery, London
2012 American Mama Gun Run Part 1, John Martin Gallery, London
American Mama Gun Run Part 2, Edward Cutler Gallery, Milan
2008 Magic Book, John Martin Gallery, London
2008 Bad company may need positive advertising, Mission Gallery, Swansea
2005 John Martin Chelsea, London
2003 Phoenix Gallery, Brighton
Washington Gallery Penarth, South Wales
2002 Ormeau Baths Gallery Belfast, Washington Gallery Penarth
Millennium Plaza Cardiff, Washington Gallery, Penarth, South Wales
2001 Studio Voltaire Gallery London
2000 Tabernacle Machynlleth, Washington Gallery Penarth, South Wales
1999 Washington Gallery Penarth, South Wales
1998 Recent Work, Washington Gallery,Penarth, South Wales
Liverpool film festival
1997 ‘Berlin Works’ Swansea Arts Workshop, Swansea
‘Works 94-95’, Pontardawe Arts Centre, Pontardawe
1996 ‘The Wall’, Neath Museum, Neath

Group Exhibitions

2018 Dubai Art Fair, John Martin Gallery, London
2018 LAF, John Martin Gallery, London
2011 Art Athina, John Martin Gallery, Greece
Arte Fiera, John Martin Gallery, Bologna
2010 Art Athina, John Martin Gallery, Greece
Neale Howells and Noe Babel, Square 1 Art, West Sussex
2009 Storylines, John Martin Gallery, London
2008 London Art Fair, John Martin Gallery
2007 London Art Fair, John Martin Gallery
2004 London Art Fair, John Martin Gallery
2003 Phoenix Gallery, Brighton
2002 Fresh 3 Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
2001 Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast
2000 Purchase Prize Pontypridd
National Eisteddfod, Llanelli
Tabernacle Machynlleth, Welsh Group / Pencil Power
Unterland Ausstellung, Germany Promotion of Neath
Battersea Art Fair, London
1999 Reading Images’, St Davids Hall, Cardiff
1998 Purchase Prize, University of Glamorgan
National Eisteddfod, Bridgend
Black and White, Y-Tabernacl, Wales
1997 9th Mostyn Open, Llandudno, North Wales
Young Wales 4, RCA, North Wales
1996 National Eisteddfod of Wales, Bala
1995 National Eisteddfod of Wales, Conway

Public Collections/Commissions

2002 Millenium Plaza, Cardiff Studio on-site
2001 Sony Head Office, London
Red Dragon Radio, Cardiff
Know Your Enemy album cover for The Manic Street Preachers
1995 Black & White, Grand Theatre Swansea, Y- Tabernacl, Wales