Telling Tales: the narrative imperative

Above: detail from Flight

Mixed media on board. 2013

Originally I’d intended to title my forthcoming exhibition at Oriel Tegfryn, Two Tales, because I was planning to concentrate on producing works on the themes of The Mare’s Tale and The Soldier’s Tale, the two music projects that preoccupied me for most of last year. However, other ‘narrative’ subjects that have long inspired me, including Kevin and the Blackbird and Hervé and the Wolf, will also be evident among the new works for the exhibition, and so I’ve changed the title to Telling Tales. It seems an apt choice, given that even when producing genre work, such as still-life or landscape, story-telling is the imperative that drives me.

Going Home

Mixed Media on Paper. 2014

Going Home is just one of a whole series of works on paper I’ve made based on Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. For the presentation of TST by Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra at the 2013 Hay Festival, I produced an animated film that was screened above the musicians and narrator. For Telling Tales I’m further exploring the story. The underlying themes that Stravinsky and his librettist Ramuz spun with such artistry into their work… love, yearning, an unwitting Faustian pact and a terrible betrayal… are so universal as to be wonderfully suited to the visual expression of them.

10 thoughts on “Telling Tales: the narrative imperative

  1. Going Home is so touching, the expression in those eyes tells a story in itself. I love the tenderness with which you depict the couple, and the mixed media technique you’re using here looks gorgeous

    • It’s interesting to be re-exploring this particular world again. I love the sense in which the work is never complete, because it keeps coming back to get me.

      Thank you Phil. I’m pleased that you love it. Tenderness, yes. Tenderness is at the heart of my feelings for Joseph the Soldier.

  2. Brilliant and of course, ‘tale telling’ and indeed ‘telling tales’ as in secrets and lies could also be read into the same words. Carry on making magical tales.
    Love as ever
    B xxx

    • Yes, that was definitely underlying my thinking. Peter always says that he’s an historian, and I’m a story-teller! He suggests that I don’t allow facts to stand in the way of a good story… or a good picture… which is true, though sometimes I think a ‘story’ can be more essentially truthful than a ‘history’ that offers only facts. (I realise that no-one is ever going to believe me now I’ve confessed to that!)

      While ‘historian’ will invariably be an eminently respectable and trustworthy descriptive, ‘storyteller’ is always going to have a duality encompassing both the good and the bad. I rather like that!

      • Yes, of course a story can be more truthful! And historians have long used narrative…

        The grand thing about being a painter who loves story and celebrates it is that each subject manifests at many different points in the story, so you are never without a subject. I’ve known a good many painters who struggled with subject matter.

        • I’ve done only a limited amount of teaching, Marly, but the obstacle to creativity I’ve observed more than any other in students, is the sense of not knowing what to draw or paint. I imagine the same goes for writing. Curiosity is always going to be what fuels the best work, in whichever medium.

          • Yes, I’m sure that’s so. I’ve seen people uncertain or thrashing about in search of a subject as well, and often when they finally choose one, they empty the well on that one piece and are then back to struggling for content afterward. Whereas story is eternal in its ongoing action and counter-action and in its stream of images…

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