Shani Rhys James

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Shani Rhys James MBE
Born 1953
Melbourne, Australia
Nationality Australian/British (Welsh)
Education Saint Martin's School of Art, London
Known for Oil painting
Spouse(s) Stephen West
Awards Jerwood Painting Prize
BBC Wales Visual Art Award
Royal National Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Fine Art
Glyndwr Award
Elected Royal Cambrian Academy of Art

Shani Rhys James MBE (born 1953 in Melbourne, Australia[1]) is a Welsh painter based in Llangadfan, Powys. She has been described as "arguably one of the most exciting and successful painters of her generation"[1] and "one of Wales’ most significant living artists".[2] She was elected to the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art in 1994.[3] In the 2006 New Years Honours she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for "services to art".[1]

Education and career[edit]

Rhys James studied at Loughborough College of Art and Design and in 1976 obtained a degree in Fine Art at Saint Martin's School of Art, London.[1]

She later moved to Powys to live and work, taking her young family with her.[4]

Rhys James is known particularly for her melancholy self-portraits.[5] When she is not painting herself she generally paints other women, still lives, domestic scenes or "riotously spiky and rip-roaring" vases of flowers. Art critic Michael Glover says "There's something mad, wild and thuggish about this work, such is its total lack of restraint. It seems to be gulping at colour... She lathers and slathers on the paint with a kind of unrestrained glee. No wonder the eyes of the model are always slightly bulbous with a kind of childish wonderment".[6]

Rhys James has been elected to the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art and the 56 Group Wales.[3]

In 2011 the artist and entertainer, Rolf Harris, included Rhys James in a BBC TV series on 'great' Welsh artists. She was the only living artist included. Harris painted a self-portrait in the style of Rhys James, using a small hand mirror and looking at his face 'as a landscape'.[7]

Rhys James has exhibited across Europe, also in the USA, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.[3] She is represented by the Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff.

Solo exhibitions[edit]

Listed by BBC Wales Arts webpage unless otherwise stated.[1]

  • 1992 - Beaux Arts, Bath
  • 1993 - Blood Ties, Wrexham Library Arts Centre, touring exhibition
  • 1994 - Glyn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea; Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham; Newport Museum and Art Gallery; Carmarthen Art Gallery
  • 1995 - Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff
  • 1996 - Re-Vision, Fettered Past, Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham
  • 1997 - Facing the Self, Mostyn Art Gallery, Llandudno, also touring
  • 2000 - The inner Room, Stephen Lacey Gallery, London
  • 2003 - Significant Paintings, Museum of Modern Art Wales, Machynlleth
  • 2003 - Recent Paintings, Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff
  • 2004 - The Black Cot, Aberystwyth Arts Centre touring exhibition
  • 2005 - Layers, Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff
  • 2008 - Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff
  • 2009 - Two Ateliers, Connaught Brown Gallery, London
  • 2010 - Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff
  • 2010 - Hillsboro Fine Art, Dublin

Prizes and awards[edit]

Listed by Martin Tinney Gallery unless otherwise stated.[3]

  • 1989 First Prize, Wales Open, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
  • 1990 Second Prize, Wales Open, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
  • 1991 First Prize, Mostyn Open, Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno
  • 1992 Gold Medal for Fine Art, National Eisteddfod of Wales
  • 1993 Hunting Art Prize/Observer Art Prizes [9]
  • 1994 Elected member of 56 Group Wales
  • 1994 Elected member of Royal Cambrian Academy
  • 1994 Winner of the BBC Wales Visual Art Award 1994
  • 1994 Second Prize, BP National Portrait Award [1]
  • 2003 Woman of Culture, Welsh Women of the Year Awards
  • 2003 Winner of the Jerwood Painting Prize[10]
  • 2006 Creative Wales Award, Arts Council of Wales
  • 2007 Honorary Fellowship, University of Wales Institute Cardiff
  • 2007 Glyndwr Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Arts in Wales, presented by MOMA Wales[1]
  • 2008 Honorary Fellowship, Hereford College of Art

Personal life[edit]

Shani Rhys James was born in 1953 in Melbourne, Australia, the daughter of a Welsh father and an Australian mother and came to the UK as a child.[1] She is married to artist Stephen West[1] and has two children.[4] Though she is widely viewed as Welsh she is an Australian passport holder and describes herself as a "mongrel Celt".[11]

Rhys James has bought a second home in Charente, France (2010), where she spends a lot of time.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i BBC Wales Arts Shani Rhys James, last updated 28 September 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  2. ^ a b Matt Thomas Shani Rhys James revels in French connection, Western Mail, 8 October 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Martin Tinney Gallery Shani Rhys James MBE RCA b.1953. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b Stephanie McNicholas Meet the women leading Wales, Western Mail, 12 November 2003. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  5. ^ Susie Wild Art: On Reflection, Metro, 8 July 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  6. ^ Michael Glover Shani Rhys James, Connaught Brown, London: Mad dashes and flying colours, The Independent, 17 June 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  7. ^ Can you tell who it’s by yet? - Rolf Harris, Western Mail, 12 February 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  8. ^ Karen Price (16 June 2014). "The new work of art which 'speaks' to you". Wales Online. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Hunting Art Prizes". Hunting plc. p. 51. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  10. ^ Jerwood Painting Prize 2003. Jerwood Space. Retrieved September 2013.
  11. ^ Rees, Mark (9 July 2014). "Interview: Shani Rhys James on her new exhibition Florilingua at Wales Millennium Centre". South Wales Evening Post. Retrieved 23 July 2014. 

External links[edit]