St Helen’s

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Artist: Frank Austin

Medium: Oil

Frank Austin’s studio in The Uplands district of Swansea is just a couple of streets from my house. Frank is an interesting character. I have interviewed him previously for the Retired Lives category in this blog.

The painting depicts a Swansea v The Barbarians rugby match at the St Helen’s rugby and cricket ground on Mumbles Road in Swansea. I liked it because it reminded me of the time when I was a rugby reporter for the South Wales Evening Post.

The Barbarians toured South Wales every Easter. They were an invitation team. The players wore Barbarians shirts (black and white hoops) and shorts, but each player retained his individual club’s socks. Hence the Baa-Baas (as they were known) in the painting are sporting a colourful variety of hosiery.

Swansea as a first-class rugby club and St Helen’s as a premier sporting venue were both consigned to history with the emergence of full-time professionalism in the sport, and the transition to regional teams in Wales.

Swansea is now represented in the Pro 12 league by the Ospreys regional side, based at the Liberty Stadium which is shared with Swansea City Football Club.

Swansea continue as a semi-pro side at St Helen’s, which is also used by Glamorgan County Cricket Club for an annual week-long Swansea Festival. Glamorgan no longer play regularly at the ground, which has decidedly seen better days.

One of which is remembered in Frank’s evocative painting of the day the Baa-Baas would come to town.

Frank lists Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell and Howard Hodgkin among his influences. “Formaldehyde, unmade beds, video art, flashing lights and most installation art hold no interest” for him.

You can discover more about Frank’s work on his website frankaustin.co.uk

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