Thursday, 20 February 2014

Reflections On Wales

Although I've spent the best part of 2 and a half years studying in Cardiff, up until now I've not really explored much into the Welsh heartland and last weekend, I got the chance to head up to Plas Menai. On the way back, we took the scenic route across Wales and I was struck by quite how beautiful the landscapes were. I've enjoyed a lot of images of Wales through the art in various galleries around Cardiff, but never had the chance to breathe in the nature.

This little jaunt prompted a few reflections and thoughts on how the art I'd come to enjoy reflected the landscapes. This may be a departure from my musical musings, but it's still an appreciation of art and Wales in general, so enjoy!!!

Reflections on Wales
The paintings of Kyffin Williams and Prendergast, wild, dark landscapes of Wales tumble with colour and (as with much art) you presume them to be fanciful interpretations of a duller reality, influenced by an artistic license for drama. Yet in my first venture across the Welsh countryside I came to realise that while certain liberties have been taken within the brush strokes, the scenes that inspire the art are truly breathtaking.

A multitude of fields, forests and cliffs intersperse the rolling hills and looming mountains, awash in a sea of velvet green and earthy browns greets you as you tackle the winding tarmac paths. Layered above this, seemingly at random you get flecks of ochre, crimson, pink and silver, colours that seem as if they were plucked from a far broader palette than nature. You could daub almost and shade on the canvas and not feel wrong in your choice, such is the multiplicity of colour. The light, often a fabrication invented by the artist's mind instead appears to have been bottled at source before being transferred to the artworks in this case. Mottled behind clouds, it bursts through the gaps in clumps and where it lands, free of the grey veils it warms the hills with a gilded light.

The brooding forests, reminiscent of Alfred Bierstadt's Yosemite Valley hug close to the roads and the ramshackle stone walls do little to reign in the expanse of nature. The light pervades between every trunk and branch, bathing you in streams of light you could almost reach out and touch. The land feels old and dare I say it, mystical. As the sky clears, the clouds hover above snow topped ridge lines and you appreciate the contrasts at play in the colours, , The sensual soft tones of the sky perch ethereal atop the raw, rough hues of the land below and my aesthetic analysis, normally found in a gallery guidebook feels spot on for this place.

Pulling across and entering the valleys, you are reminded that it's not merely the name of an area but a very specific environment. The brute physical forces at work are evident, they plunge from the beds of rivers and lakes to peaks above, a motley decked in tones of such variety that they could have been picked by Kyffin himself. The valleys swoop away from you, rolling down as you begin to reenter larger towns and back into a more familiar rhythm of towns and motorways and civilization.

We love to praise artwork, the technical craft involved as well as the overall themes, but no amount of judgement and critique can replicate the inspiration. It may lack the rigidity and clinical nature of our everyday existence, content to observe nature through a screen, but the landscapes of Wales clearly left a deep impression on the countless generations of artists who seek to capture their beauty. They are really rather stunning.

Kyffin Williams - Cottages above Rhosgadfan
Peter Prendergast - Carneddau
Emily Cowan - Study of Kyffin on Cardboard
Photo by me!

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