A film about a failed utopian shopping centre and a series of austere, architectural sculptures have won Gold Medals in Fine Art and Art and Design respectively at this year’s National Eisteddfod Visual Arts Exhibition, which opens today in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, north Wales.

Abergavenny-based Sean Edwards was awarded the Gold Medal for Fine Art for his film Maelfa, which documents how a 1970s shopping centre in the Llanederyn district of Cardiff, where Edwards grew up, failed to achieve the utopian aspirations of its architects and developers.

Although planned as the central hub of a new, social housing development, no more than a third of its 30 units were ever occupied at one time. When Edwards made the film in 2010, the site had been earmarked for demolition.

Edwards, who also won the Young Artist Scholarship at National Eisteddfod in 2004, said: “I was delighted and very surprised to find out that Maelfa had won this year’s Gold Medal for Fine Art. The shopping centre was an important presence in my own childhood, and is a subject I had been interested in capturing for many years.

“The film presents the centre as somewhere with a past and history, but that has not lived up to the grand ideas of what it could have been. Buildings and spaces, such as this, exist in towns and cities across the country, and the abstract nature of the film reflects the fact that Maelfa could easily depict any one of these.”

Austere and architectural

The Gold Medal for Craft and Design was awarded to Susan Phillips whose ceramic sculptures use austere and architectural forms to explore the pairing of opposites, marrying the visually opposing elements of the circle and the square into a single form.

The Herefordshire-based artist, who describes her work as on the border of visual art and craft and design, said: “This was the first time I had entered the National Eisteddfod Visual Arts Exhibition, and having only been exhibiting for three years; this win was completely unexpected.”

Alongside their Gold Medal awards, Edwards and Phillips each receives a £5,000 prize. The winner of a People’s Choice Award will be announced on 9 August.

The National Eisteddfod of Wales is an annual festival celebrating music, literature, dance, theatre and visual arts, and promoting Welsh culture and language.  The Visual Arts Exhibition is an open submission competition held each year in the Y Lle Celf (Visual Arts Pavilion).

Robyn Tomos, visual arts officer, National Eisteddfod of Wales, said: “The award selectors have created an exhibition that truly showcases the talent within Wales, and Sean and Susan are two prime examples of this talent.

“Despite the diversity of their chosen mediums – sculpture and video – their work instantly engages and captivates the audience, encouraging them to form their own understanding of the piece.”

National Eisteddfod of Wales 2014 continues to 9 August, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. www.eisteddfod.org.uk