On Thursday, September 28, Hay Castle hosted a private viewing of the Josef Herman: Artistiaid Ffoadur Cymru Refugee Artists exhibition.

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The unique exhibition showcases artwork by refugee artists who have found a welcome in Wales from the 1940s to the present day.

With around 100 hundred people in attendance, Thursday signalised the start of the exhibition which will be at the castle until Tuesday, November 14.

The exhibition is centred around the work of Josef Herman, a Jewish émigré from Poland, who was one of the greatest depicters of life in a Welsh mining community, having settled in the village of Ystradgynlais where he stayed for 11 years.

His work is said to raise relevant contemporary questions over the interplay between local and migrant identities.

In 1944 he visited Ystradgynlais on holiday, and made it his home until 1955. He later said: "I stayed here because I found all I required. I arrived here a stranger for a fortnight; the fortnight became 11 years."

Josef Herman (1911 Warsaw, Poland – 2000 London, England) Refugees, c. 1941
Josef Herman (1911 Warsaw, Poland – 2000 London, England)Refugees, c. 1941.Ben Uri Collection, LondonPurchased with the kind assistance of the ACE/ V&A Purchase GrantFund and Art Fund 2014 Refugees is a rare, important early painting, thought lost for over 60 years, after Herman destroyed the majority of his work from this period, considering it too influenced by Chagall. Blue was the dominant colour of his Glasgow years, used to evoke a lost Warsaw, its skyline punctuated by moonlit spires. Although Herman drew strongly on his eastern European Jewish heritage, the refugees also represent the wider displacement of peoples uprooted and forced into exile by the upheavals of the Second World War. The family’s precarious situation is symbolised by the cat with a mouse dangling from its jaw, while the fearful child's hand- in-mouth gesture is reminiscent of the Black paintings of Goya – an artist Herman greatly admired. (Hay Castle Trust)

The exhibition is split into two parts. The first part shows artwork made by refugees currently seeking sanctuary in Wales, such as Petro Birov from Ukraine, Indika Rajapaksha from Sri Lanka, Nathaly Buitrago from El Salvador, and Svitlana Kozmin from West Ukraine.

The other part of the gallery showcases art work by refugees from the 20th century, such as Josef Herman, Martin Bloch, Maurice Sochachewsky, Bettina Adler, Heinz Koppel, and Harry Weinberger.

All of their artwork was inspired through their life and the Welsh landscape.