Fearless Curiousity (South Wales Evening Post 19 March 2004)
When Swansea based artist Valerie Ganz says,”Before the closures I worked in about 15 coal mines”, you might do a double take. But by worked, she means drawing and painting and yes, she did go down the mines, crawling around underground with the miners to create a unique record of their lives Ganz has a fearless curiosity that makes her step, sketchbook in hand, into any world that interests her. And if something is hidden from view whether it’s underground, behind bars or after hours it seems to interest her all the more.
“When you think about it, since they introduced miners’ baths you never see anyone looking like a miner on the street,” she says, explaining why she decided to go behind the scenes at the collieries.
A similar impulse led her to paint inmates at Swansea prison As a child Ganz had passed its blank walls every day on the Mumbles railway. “I used to think, what’s going on behind there?” she says. “I thought I’d really like to see how they cope with life in there.”
Another hidden world depicted in Ganz’s latest exhibition at the Albany Gallery, Cardiff, is Swansea’s nightlife, which she drew and painted from life in clubs such as Escape, Time and Icon.
The show also features portraits of jazz musicians (for which she is well known) and spectacular landscape scenes from around the world. Ganz loves to travel Over the past year she has visited places as diverse as Brazil, Provence and Norway, and on every trip she has sketched and painted. “It’s a case of have paintbrush, will travel,” she says.
“I’m like Linus with his blanket I wouldn’t dream of travelling anywhere without my sketchbook it’s always in the bottom of my suitcase.”
by Jenny White