Artist Profile: Sean Edwards

1 September 2019

This month we look at the work of Welsh artist Sean Edwards, whose solo exhibition for Wales in Venice, Undo Things Done, is currently on show as part of the 58th Venice Biennale.

Known for his sculptural approach to the everyday, Edwards (b.1980) often begins with seemingly unrelated elements linked by autobiographical and cultural connections. Through investigative processes including time spent in local archives, museums and libraries, he gathers together images, stories, quotes, and clips. It is in the teasing out of these things in the studio, in isolating, abstracting, and bringing them together, that their political and formal resonance comes into play.

Edwards’ Arts Council Collection film, Maelfa, 2010 (pictured), is one of a number of works produced during a residency undertaken by the artist in 2009 at the Maelfa shopping centre in Llanedeyrn on the outskirts of his hometown of Cardiff. Built in the 1970s around a block of high-rise flats in a council estate, the Maelfa shopping centre was once a well-used and popular institution, before falling into disrepair and was, at the time of the Edwards’ residency, the subject of a multi-million pound regeneration scheme. Meditative and sombre, Maelfa reflects both on the disappearance of once vibrant communities, and failed utopian aspirations.


Undo Things Done, Sean Edwards' solo exhibition for Wales in Venice 2019, similarly takes inspiration from the Welsh Capital. The exhibition includes sculpture, film, prints, Welsh quilts and a live daily radio broadcast, and takes its starting point from the artist’s experience of growing up on a council estate in Cardiff in the 1980s. Edwards is interested in capturing and translating what he calls a condition of ‘not expecting much’ into a shared visual language; one that evokes a way of living familiar to a great number of people; of making do and getting by.

The works are installed across the interlocking rooms of the Santa Maria Ausiliatrice where the church, corridors and classrooms have been left largely untouched. Signs of wear and everyday use have been deliberately incorporated into the staging of the show. Edwards is drawn to these traces that reflect the passing of time: days lived according to the rituals of mass and the timetable of a school; the quiet stories.

The exhibition was one of a number by Arts Council Collection artists visited as part of our recent Curators' Day event in Venice. As part of the event, we invited delegates to share their thoughts on the exhibitions, including Helen Nisbet, curator and Art Night Artistic Director who discusses Edwards’ exhibition for the Welsh Pavilion.

> Watch our full series of Curators' Day films.

Undo Things Done is presented by guest curator Marie-Anne McQuay and lead organisation Tŷ Pawb. Commissioned by Arts Council of Wales for the Collateral Event of the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Edwards’ exhibition marks the ninth Biennale presentation by Wales and is the artist’s first major presentation at an international biennale.


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.