national library exhibition part four: the shape of space

The entrance to the ‘annex’ at the National Library of Wales, beyond which space lies the splendid Gregynog Gallery.

The Retrospective has been taking shape in our heads for more than two years. I recall an initial discussion with Peter about how the exhibition and book might be subdivided in such ways as would make sense of my work to those coming to it for the first time. The genre paintings of still-life and landscape would have areas/chapters to themselves, though landscape would later be titled ‘places’ for the sake of clarity. The paintings and drawings made in series, The Temptations of Solitude and the Mari Lwyd, would have their own enclosed spaces in the gallery, as would the maquettes. The slighter wider theme of the generally ‘miraculous’, including paintings on the themes of Kevin and the Blackbird, Hervé and the Wolf, Elijah and the Raven and the three Annunciation paintings, would group together at one end of the gallery space. Green George, the largest painting I’ve made to date, would greet visitors as they moved from the smaller exhibition space known as the ‘annex’ into the Gregynog Gallery. This overall plan survived intact as we progressed through the many stages of preparing for the retrospective, and is the way the exhibition appears today.

Green George.

Showing the books I’ve done in collaboration with Nicolas and Frances McDowall in the annex as a precursor to the main event in the Gregynog, seemed appropriate in what is, after all, the National Library of Wales. We’ve used copies of my Old Stile books from the institute’s collection to display in glass cases alongside original artworks, workbooks and the special edition of my most recent OSP book, Peter Shaffer’s play Equus.

Above: a cased display of cliché verre glass plates that I made for my first major book with the Old Stile Press, Richard Barnfield’s ‘The Affectionate Shepherd’.

Above: display cases in the annex show Old Stile Press books and preparatory drawings for projects, including many sketches for ‘Equus’ plus an array of the ‘extras’ from the ‘special edition’.

Above: once in the the main gallery, the chiaroscuro ‘On the Mountain’ beckons from the left, drawing visitors to the Mari Lwyd section of the exhibition, while ‘Flight of Swallows Over the Field of Gold’ leads the way right to paintings on the theme of ‘the miraculous’. From a directional audio hood out of sight above visitors’ heads as they enter the gallery, Damian Walford Davies’ rich voice can be heard reciting his poem ‘Green George’.

To be continued.

9 thoughts on “national library exhibition part four: the shape of space

    • It was beautifully done by the staff at the National Library, Midori, and it’s hard to imagine that there will ever be another such comprehensive exhibition in my lifetime. Work came from all over the UK and some paintings from the USA too. It was a tad overwhelming when I first saw the gallery fully hung and lit. Some of the paintings I hadn’t set eyes on in nearly two decades.

  1. thank you so much for this… it’s a gorgeous set-up; i love the way you’ve grouped things and guided viewers into the various spaces. i’m so happy not to have had to miss that part of it 🙂

  2. Camera safe and sound in the National Library bag together with your splendid book!!. The exhibition was outstanding. Many thanks for your hospitality on Friday at Ty Isaf. Super images of the opening and garden party.
    Jean and Nesta

    • So pleased that you found the camera safe and sound. It was lovely to show you both around Ty Isaf. I’m glad we ran into each other at the Library and that you were able to come home for tea with us.

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