the book is here

On Friday a van arrived from Butler Tanner & Dennis with multiple copies of ‘the book’ to go on to the National Library and the Martin Tinney Gallery. Another van took the main consignment to Lund Humphries for distribution. I am not the one who should write about it, and so I’ll draw the posts on this subject to a close here with the following thanks.

My thanks to Simon Callow, for his introductory chapter setting the the tone of the book with rich insight and infectious enthusiasm. He is always an inspiration.

I thank Andrew Green for his deeply mined explorations of landscape in my painting. We needed a writer knowledgeable in the history, the topography and the built heritage of Wales, and In Andrew we struck gold.

I thank Rex Harley who at the outset helped to conceive a plan for the monograph, and then produced a beautiful chapter on still-life and another on my work with The Old Stile Press. He also stood my corner when I declared that I didn’t want anyone to write about my life before I became a painter, though I was less happy when he and Peter elicited a rash undertaking from me that I’d come up with a short memoir to close the book. In hindsight I think they were right to do so, though there were times when I was out of sorts with both of them about it.

I thank Montserrat Prat for agreeing to write about my work on the Mari Lwyd series. She made cross-cultural connections and suggested possible influences that were spot on in every case. It was Montserrat who dredged memories from my childhood that set the Parthenon marbles at the heart of the work, a fact that had never consciously crossed my mind while working on the drawings, though the moment she spoke the words I knew she was right.

I thank Jacqueline Thalmann for bringing her expertise on the Christ Church fragments of a ‘Thebaid’ to the chapter on The Temptations of Solitude. We could have found no one better suited to the job of  putting my paintings in the historical context of what had inspired them, and she has done so most deftly.

I thank Marly Youmans for her extraordinary chapter Fire in the Labyrinth. It’s as though she opened a door into my head, walked in and made herself quite at home. I still can’t work out by what alchemy she has divined thoughts that I have never expressed in words. Her chapter reads like fiction, though it’s as close to the truth about painting as anything I’ve ever read.

I thank Anita Mills for her artist’s insight. (She is the only contributor who is a practising artist.) Anita meticulously analyses my drawn works but never makes the vivisectionist’s mistake of destroying them in the process. She is a marvel and I find she teaches wonderful and useful lessons about a process that for me is largely intuitive.

I thank Kathe Koja, another who has taken the back door into my head without me even noticing. (Interesting that like Marly, Kathe is a celebrated novelist.) Her chapter on maquettes is so far from what might, in lesser hands, have been an account of how I cut up paper. Instead she has conjured an uncannily accurate imagined version of  the dramas that clutter my head as I manufacture the puppets, and one day I’m going to make her tell me how she did that.

I thank Damian Walford Davies, who has written a chapter on poetry that is so ravishingly beautiful that already it has begun to influence what I plan to paint next. I can’t think of any praise for him higher than that.

Andrew and Peter Wakelin masterminded the book. Together they designed it and spent hundreds of hours finessing the content and layout. Peter edited it. I’ve often thought it just as well that these two are brothers, because otherwise either of them may have driven another collaborator mad in the pursuit of perfection. (Combined, I don’t mind telling you that they often nearly drove me to distraction.) But a glance at the finished book will show that all their efforts have produced something to be proud of, and I shall be forever grateful to them for the faith, endeavour and good judgement they’ve shown throughout the project. Peter, Andrew, my thanks to both of you for this monograph. It’s far more than I ever hoped it could be.

You can order the book from Lund Humphries HERE.

31 thoughts on “the book is here

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  3. Just pre-ordered my copy!!!! Congratulations Clive, well deserved indeed. Looking forward to The Book of Ystwyth as well!!! Much love, your fan YM

  4. We are lucky to already have a copy in our clutches thanks to Andrew.

    I think it’s a most handsome book and love the balance you’ve struck between image and text – richly illustrated with images that do the originals proud with fresh and hugely insightful essays, all beautifully written. All of your (collective) hard work, attention and long hours have certainly paid off!

    • Philippa, thank you so much for your kind words. They mean a lot to me. It has indeed been a long journey, and there have been moments of despair when each of us has faltered, though fortunately, never collectively. Now when I thumb through the book it all seems so ‘right’. However, like unendurable physical pain… the memory of which I’m reliably informed is discarded by the brain as being not useful to carrying on… the process by which the monograph came into being has almost vanished from my memory banks. It has after all been the work of over two years, so there’s much to forget. Finding and then checking slides was a low-point for me. I hate the damned things, and I’m heartily glad that transparencies have given way to digital. No more slaving over a light-box with a viewer. My eyes almost bleed at the surviving memories of the days spent doing that!

  5. Clive, belated congratulations. It looks beautiful and I’m sure everyone involved in its production will be very proud.

    I’m fascinated by the role of your own imprint in publsihing this and the other book. Obviously it’s an acknowledgement of reality and a completely appropriate way to recognize the labors of Peter and Andrew, not to mention your own efforts, but this is something that would be avoided like the plague by an American poet of equivalent stature to yours in the world of art — anything with even a whiff of self-publsihing about it would be looked at askance by the literary establishment. Am I wrong in supposing that the situation is quite opposite here, and that the active participation of the artist actually enhances the value of a retrospective like this?

    • The brutal fact is that it’s hard to sell books about artists that no-one has ever heard of. Let’s face it, if you conducted a street-survey, most of the public would be hard-pressed to name a single living painter, and they certainly wouldn’t have heard of me. The art bookshelves of shops and libraries may be packed with volumes on Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh, but you have to be a dedicated seeker after the unusual to find anything about a living artist, let alone a painter. The maths is simple. Publishing is an expensive business, and no publisher wants to produce books that don’t sell.

      Sometimes a public gallery will underwrite the publication of a catalogue. The last time this happened to me was in 2001, when Newport Museum and Art Gallery produced a beautiful though slender catalogue to accompany my exhibition The Mare’s Tale. Such enterprises have to be factored into a gallery’s budget, and I recall that even ten years ago when things were not as financially tight for institutions as they are today, I waived my small ‘hanging fee’ so that it could be used to swell the catalogue a little. A decade on and Newport is no longer producing catalogues to accompany exhibitions of contemporary artists. I was lucky to have got in before cutbacks slashed away such things.

      We know of a particular case when a significant private collector underwrote a heavyweight monograph in order to help promote an elderly painter’s reputation, thus protecting the collector’s investment in the artist’s work. In such ways reputations can be eased along. Something of quality in print undoubtedly helps confirm the status of an artist. Of course the internet and having an online presence such as I have with a website and less formally with this Artlog, help to take an artist to a larger public. My online presence has certainly helped me get a lot more attention than I would have garnered without the sites, and my experience unequivocally demonstrates that Google can be the artist’s friend. (It was by the un-cool and usually not-admitted-to process of Googling my name that I came upon you and your poems Dave, and look where that has led!)

      Few relatively little-known artists suddenly have a book appear without it having either having been entirely or in part underwritten by State-granted aid or private benefaction. I myself had a small though handsome catalogue for my exhibition The Temptations of Solitude part-aided by a grant from the Arts Council of Wales, though it had to be match-funded as a condition of the grant. When a collector of an artist’s work or a benefactor has helped a publishing project along, the fact is rarely trumpeted, and so the public may not be aware of the fact. Sponsorship is another route to explore, though it comes at the cost of ‘branding’. Of course even with unlimited funds, it would be hard for someone to produce a significant publication unless their work merited it. You need the credibility of a respected publishing house, as well as the collaboration of writers whose words will add lustre to the project. In my own case, the book’s jacket additionally carries the logo of the National Library of Wales. The monograph would simply not have appeared in the form that it has without the Library’s decision to mount a Retrospective of my work. The exhibition to celebrate my sixtieth birthday this year was undoubtedly the key factor that gave the notion of a publication further credibility.

      So in answer to your question, I think that my participation… and that of Peter and Andrew not to mention the nine authors… has enhanced the undertaking, and indeed I don’t see how the book could have been done without us. It certainly couldn’t have been as comprehensive without access to my archive, nor as insightful without the contributions of writers who know my work intimately. I’m not sure how my participation will affect the way people view the book, but I think that it was right to be open about it. I don’t believe that what has been done here is ‘self publishing’ in the sense that some might perceive it. Lund Humphries is the publisher and distributor, and Grey Mare Press, our own imprint, is associate-publisher. The book is available from Lund Humphries and the outlets they select to market it through, hence its availability on Amazon. The book has been a collaborative effort, and were other artists to feel that they would benefit from a similar publication, then our way of having produced the monograph might be an interesting template to study.

      I can imagine how the establishment might frown on poets who self-publish, though I think that the process must throw up all sorts of innovative examples unfettered by the constraints of commercial publishing houses. Making a living is the thing, and few artists and I suspect even fewer poets manage to survive without other jobs to make ends meet. Anything in print helps to get the words… and the pictures… out in the world. Publishing has changed and is changing. Printing has changed and is changing. Enterprising writers and artists are having to find innovative ways of presenting themselves and their work. Some will do it well and some badly. Some won’t bother at all, hoping that ‘others’ will be proactive on their behalves. They could have a long wait.

  6. I read your post this morning with real pleasure.. It’s wonderful news after such a time of hard graft. I look forward to its arrival in the post with great anticipation. Well done Clive and all those concerned. It’s been an honour to be able to follow through the ‘story of the book’ with you in real time.

    • Thank you Graham. I hope that when you take delivery of a copy, it does not disappoint. I myself am content. I don’t think we could have done better. The boys have laboured so hard on it, and Butler Tanner & Dennis have done a grand job.

  7. Oh, bravo! Can’t wait to see it, enjoy it, get lost in it, in real 3D life! Congratulations to you, and to all those who were able to spend some time in your process. I had a marvelous time with those gorgeous maquettes.

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