Photograph courtesy of Bernard Mitchell
Tomorrow at close of day, my sixtieth birthday retrospective exhibition at the National Library of Wales comes to the end of its three month run. It has been an extraordinary summer. People have poured through the gallery and through Ty Isaf. Friends and family have travelled far to be with us and to see the exhibition. The Gregynog Gallery visitor book is crammed with comments that shall stay with me for my lifetime. I met the friends that until now had been enjoyed only at an e-mail distance. Dave Bonta and Marly Youmans arrived from Pennsylvania and New York State, and coming face to face them was a wonderful though oddly familiar experience, because of course, they were both as I had known they would be, utterly marvellous people. Anita Mills and Andrea Selch arrived from N Carolina (old hands at the trip because together and separately they have made it a good few times now) and by the 6th May Ty Isaf was in the state of high energy you’d expect from such a gathering of creative, buzzed-up American poets and writers waiting for the party to begin. We had the most fun with them, and when we set set out in convoy for the National Library on the afternoon of the exhibition opening, I felt as though I had my gang to protect me. Liz and Graham Sangster… friends back from my days as a stage designer when Liz was the head of the scenic department at Welsh National Opera… arrived from France, and together with Eric and Angharad Roberts (opera singer and stage designer respectively) made their base just down the coast at our cottage. (Angharad’s and Eric’s Jack Russell terrier Moli came too, as did Moli’s daughter from a litter fathered by our own Jacket!) Hotels and guest-houses around Aberystwyth were full of friends for who we had no room at Ty Isaf, and Anne and Basil Wolf generously offered overflow accommodation so no-one had to sleep in a tent on our lawn.
Throughout the three months of the exhibition visitors have continued to come. Every week our guest rooms have been almost permanently occupied. Yesterday our friend Pete Goodridge, art carrier, curator and all-round star, arrived with his wife Mel to see the show. (Pete safely transports my work around country and indeed the globe.) Friends Gareth and Kate came too, a treat as we’d thought they wouldn’t make it because Gareth’s job as a television and radio journalist keeps him travelling. I’ve given tours and talks at the gallery and have been staggered by the number of people who have sought me out to tell me about what my work means to them. There have been the e-mails and letters too, many of which I have yet to answer. It’s been rather overwhelming.
It will take me a while to make sense of all that has happened and to get some kind of perspective on it. So many contributed to make the exhibition and the publications everything that we had hoped for and more. I’m agog with admiration for the chief architects of what has been achieved. Andrew Wakelin was tireless and heroic throughout the process of designing the books. We asked much of him, and he gave us so much more. Most of the team have been thanked in person or in public, some in writing, and some even here on the Artlog.
But of course there is one without who none of it would have happened. He bore the worst of my insecurities in the run-up to the show, endured my rants and occasional rages and held fast to the tiller when the waters we negotiated were turbulent and my emotional states matched them. So please raise a cheer for my partner, friend and hero, APW.
Thank you Peter. Just like you said you would, you made it all happen.
Wonderful report and photos, Clive. I’m very sorry not to have been able to see the show itself but at least I could follow its progress and share some of the excitment by reading your blog. And also I have the beautiful book to marvel at and can listen to you in conversation with Dave as you walk the countryside around Ty Isaf. All in all, you’ve given us blessings galore. Thank you for your generosity and congratulations to you and Peter and all who helped to make your retrospective such an outstanding experience.
And my thanks to you Natalie, and indeed all who regularly drop by here. Without the encouragement of those who watch and participate from afar via the comment box, there would be no Artlog worth looking at. This is a collaborative venture in every way, forged by the community that has grown around it as I’ve gradually worked out what I might have to say.
I’d long ago known I was going to be contributing a biographical chapter to the monograph planned to coincide with my retrospective, and yet had no confidence and no idea where to start. My original plan for the Artlog was to get in a little practice with my writing in the lead-up to the dreaded task. I knew there would be many parts of my life I would have to excavate in order to do the job properly, and had a notion that the task might possibly be done better with a bit of encouragement from anyone who might be interested. However the ‘Artloggers’ brought so much more to the project than I’d imagined would be possible, leaving comments that led directly to me doing the thing I had always said I wouldn’t, which was to include in the memoir an account of my life in the theatre before I became a painter. In answer to Artloggers’ questions I also began to write about my practices in the studio, and indeed much of what first appeared here became an ongoing source of reference for the other contributors to the monograph, nearly all of who followed the Artlog and used knowledge garnered from it for their various chapters. The blog has in fact become a part of my practice, growing daily in breadth and detail, becoming what might even be defined as a piece of performance art, with news and images posted daily of my progress… or lack of it… in the studio.
I count myself fortunate indeed with the Artlog contributors, an insightful and creative group of people whose ideas so generously shared here frequently deepen and shape how my work develops. I can’t quite imagine my days without them now. How extraordinary is that?
It is so splendid that you’ve been able to have this experience, and to reap the harvest of the wonderful seeds you’ve sown. You are very blessed, Clive. And very much a blessing!
Thom, the thing about blessings is that I’ve found them to be an energy that travels in circles. I’m content that people enjoy looking at what I produce, and grateful that in turn the work has attracted some into my orbit who have gone on to become my close friends and even collaborators. Your blogs Fabulon, Chateau Thombeau and now Form is Void have brought me a great deal of pleasure over the years, and I’m glad that your discovery and appreciation of what I do has finally brought us together. I’d always thought that should the circumstances be right this might happen, and it did.
Thank you ‘little brother’ for your support and friendship. I value both greatly.
Well, you’re certainly a blessing in my life!
Those silly blogs may have brought you my way, but in turn I discovered your wonderful work and words. This led me to believe that you might find something of value in my music, which is much closer to the “real” me. An exchange was made, uneven though it may seem, and we now know each other better than what could be previously imagined. Thus the circle is a spiral, ever expanding and growing in depth. Or something like that.
The internet may be no substitute for “reality”, but it still is a remarkable thing!
There’s wisdom in what you write, which just goes to prove that when you and I fantasise about running away together to found the Brotherhood of the Aten (or possibly the Little Flagellants of Saint Radegund or suchlike… we’ll work out the details later) I’ve been right all along in my belief that you’re going to be the chanter and charismatic leader (you do after all have that fabulous voice) while I pass the cap around and make the tea!
A spiral! I really like that idea.
Maybe I could get to paint a little bit. OK, I have it. You get to be Abbot… or the equivalent thereof… I’ll be the icon painter (I’ll be like Hildegard of Bingen, having visions and making beautiful images of heaven) and we’ll find a handsome young acolyte to be chef! That works for me! Does it work for you?
(For Artlog readers who are interested, Thom really does have the most beautiful voice, and you can find it HERE!)
I’m sure Jack actually thinks it was all because of him! Congratulations again, Clive; I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the show but you’ve done everything possible to share it with all of us who care about you and love your work, and I am poring happily over the beautiful pages of “The Book of Ystwyth,” held in my own hands.
Beth, thank you for that. I’m greatly moved by your good wishes. Enjoy The Book of Ystwyth. So many people worked hard to bring it into the world.
Jack says ‘Quite right!’ He concurs with you that everything was down to him!
Wrong again, Clive, the party’s only just beginning. Lovely photo of Peter and Jack.
Why? What do you know that I don’t?
Yes, I like that photo. Jack has such a sweet, expectant look on his face.
That is terribly touching, I am so pleased for you and for your partner. Such a moment of well deserved satisfaction. Cheers to you both.
Thank you Leonard. We appreciate your kind thoughts.
Thrice hooray to all concerned! Wish I could have come, but I have the beautiful book to have and to hold.
Another time Lucy. I know we’ll meet up one day.
I came by to see if you were noting tomorrow as the last day… Thank you for including me in the marvels that were the books and the events–so many lovely people and hours that I will not forget. Many thanks and love to you and Peter and Andrew.
Andrew because the books were so beautiful, of course!
Of course. Quite right.
I’m so sad that we’ve not managed to make it to see your exhibition (we’re in Birmingham and unfortunately haven’t had a spare day to make the trip to Aberystwyth) but I’m very glad to hear that it went so well!
Ah, Birmingham! So near and yet so far. But thank you for your good intentions. Much appreciated.
i wish we could have come! it has sounded so beautiful. congratulations! and thanks to peter 🙂
I’ll pass that on to him Zoe. Thank you.
Well, I’m so glad I could make the trip! It’s been my highlight of the decade so far. And I’m pleased to hear how many other people have been to see it. I really can’t imagine a more perfect gallery space, or geographical location, to host an exhibition of your work. Kudos to everyone who made it happen — especially you and Peter and Andrew.
Highlight of the decade! Wow! That’s quite a call! Thank you Dave. One thing is for sure, the experience would not have been as rich without you four guys heading our way. The exhibition would not have been what it was without all that wonderful poetry. We’ve been a good team!