Ruth Jen was born in Aberystwyth in 1964 and raiised in the nearby village of Cefnllwyd. She studied at both Carmarthen and Cardiff College of Art where she gained a degree in Fine Art, specialising in printmaking. She is currently studying for an MA in printmaking at the Aberystwyth School of Art.
I was born in Aberystwyth in 1964 and raised in the nearby village of Cefnllwyd. I studied at both Carmarthen and Cardiff College of Art where I gained a degree in Fine Art, specialising in printmaking. Although printing is my main activity, I have expanded my skills to include design, illustration, murals and part-time teaching. I am currently studying for an MA in printmaking at the Aberystwyth School of Art.
In 2010 I was asked by Oriel Y Bont in Aberystwyth to exhibit alongside two other female artists. In order to make the exhibition coherent I decided to revisit my sketchbooks and set about developing and investigating a theme that had been reoccurring in my work over the past five years.
I started by collecting images of how Welsh women were portrayed over the centuries and was especially drawn to the iconic figure of "The Welsh Lady" in National Costume. The costume regarded as national dress was based on the costume once worn by rural women in Wales during the early nineteenth century, and it comprises of a;
"striped flannel petticoat, worn under a flannel open-fronted bedgown, with an apron, shawl and kerchief or cap.
The betgwn as it is known in welsh, would vary from county to county, possibly as a result of the work undertaken by the wearer, some would be loose and coat-like, others fitted and short. The hats worn would be similar to the ones worn by the men at that time. In most of the images produced during the early 19th century, particularly that of the booming postcard industry, Welsh women were portrayed as gentile ladies immersed in their daily routines of knitting, weaving, and drinking tea.
Through this body of work, my aim was to repossess the image of the welsh woman and poke fun at the icon that even the Welsh themselves were happy to identify with.
"The adoption of the costume coincided with the growth of Welsh Nationalism, the national costume made from Welsh wool was therefore seen as a visual declaration of a Welsh identity." (Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. )
As my work is very graphic and illustrative by nature, I found that printmaking allowed me to express myself in a bold linear manner and the stylized figures that I created allowed me to deal with issues and situations in a humorous and provocative way.
The fact that I don't offer a translation for the titles is intentional. I am interested in what the viewer brings to the work and how they interpret it and the dialogue that might stem from this. I take inspiration from colloquial sayings, traditions, folklore, and the nuances within the language.