Bethan Huws (born in Bangor, 1961) is a Welsh artist who studied in London and now lives between Paris and Berlin.
Her work is strongly influenced by her Welsh origins, by her rural childhood, by the fact that she grew up speaking Welsh, a Celtic language used by a very small population in Britain.
She is a conceptual artist in the tradition pioneered by Marcel Duchamp – one of the first artists to employ language as a fundamental element in the creation of art, and word games as a technique for investigating the essence of the art-object itself. The idea of the translatability of different languages and a predominantly rural education lie at the heart of Huws’s thinking, and she has always used a wide variety of media to express her own, very personal, vision of the world.
With ever-present wit and irony, and a typically British lightness of touch, her art explores the essence of the making of art. In her search to probe the essential nature of every artifact, she asks herself (and us), what is the relationship between the object and its representation, between art and human relations. And in doing so she forces us to reflect on an entirely new level.
Huws has incorporated language into her art since the early 1990s, and she uses text in many different forms. In 1999 she made the first of her word vitrines, cases in which movable plastic letters – of the type that used to be found in offices – are set against a black background. They are often accompanied by drawings, sculptures, neons and films: multiple expressions of a single repetitive question: what is Art today?

On 15th March 2014 Galleria Vistamare inaugurates Bethan Huws’ first solo exhibition in Italy.
In the diversity of the approaches that they employ, the works on show illustrate the impossibility of pigeon- holing the work of the artist. Master of the ready-made in the tradition of Duchamp and Manzoni, she is also influenced by the extraordinary intellectual work of Magritte.
One of the vitrines on show, Untitled (Ceci n’est pas un miroir), 2006, is an obvious citation of Magritte’s The Treachery of Images, 1929 in which the Belgian artist paints a pipe, declaring that what the viewer sees is not a pipe. Huws plays, in the same way, on the double-meaning of the text and with the viewer’s own reflection visible in the glass of the vitrine: we see ourselves mirrored in a reflective surface but in it we read that it is not a mirror. There is a similarly provocative affirmation in the work What’s the point of giving…?, 2006, where the artist questions the public’s capacity to understand art, interrogating herself and her viewers as to the true artistic value of an object. Art-as-object becomes art-as-experience.
Several of the watercolours on show offer a very clear illustration of the artist’s approach to painting, they are almost monochromatic and realized with sparing brushstrokes in which the object portrayed is hinted at rather than delineated. Hieroglyph-like, these images evoke primal associations, suggesting memories of the artist’s childhood: animals, plants and places that conjure up the moods and emotions of infancy, as is the case, for example, in The Big Apple, 2008.
Her neon Tour, 2007, once again recalls Duchamp’s always-ironic re-thinking of everyday objects in artistic terms. This piece, in particular, not only references Duchamp’s bottle rack, but owes its title to the polysemy of the French word ‘tour’ (‘rook’ in English) referring to the chess piece which moves horizontally and vertically and to the French idiomatic expression ‘faire un tour’ (‘to go for a walk’ in English).
Bethan Huws’ idea of film finds expression in her 2009 film Fountain, in which the symbolic nature of experience substitutes a non-existent narrative structure: an epiphany revealing a sensitive and cerebral attempt to capture the essence of art. In this work, Huws filmed in Rome many fountains with the sound of running water blending with the voice of the artist who reflects on Duchamp’s last important work Etant Donnés. The moving image on the screen (series of fountains) does not coincide with what we hear (explanations of French idiomatic expressions). As viewers we are forced once more to question ourselves, faced with a form of art that is profoundly reflective.

Bethan Huws won the B.A.C.A. Europe 2006 (Biennial Award for Contemporary Art) award given by the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, and in 2003 she exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Her works can be found in major public collections including: The Tate Collection (London), Kunstmuseum Bern (Bern), Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt am Main), Kolumba Kunstmuseum (Cologne), Museum Ludwig (Cologne), Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (Porto), Kaiser Wilhelm Museum (Krefeld), David Roberts Art Foundation: DRAF (London), Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne (Paris) and Kunstmuseum St.Gallen (St. Gallen).