Arenig Fawr


Still-life Under Arenig

Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Acrylic on gessoed panel. 33 x 31 cm. 2014

Enquiries to the Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff

As a big J. D. Innes exhibition is about to open at the National Museum of Wales, Martin Tinney is holding an exhibition of gallery artists working to the theme of the Arenig mountain range in North Wales, a landscape Innes loved to paint.

I’ve made a still-life with Arenig Fawr beyond it. The foliate-head jug is one of many I made with Pip Koppel when Peter and I first moved to Aberystwyth. (she threw and I added handles and decorated) The small oval box once contained pralines given to us by our friend Rex Harley. The box was originally decorated with a printed design that I over-painted with waves and a masted ship, and has appeared in numerous still-life paintings I’ve made. In the bottom of the box is a drawing of a fish.


James Dickson Innes

Arenig, Sunny Evening c.1911-12

During his short life (1887 – 1914) James Dickson Innes stayed for several seasons in North Wales, close to the Arenig mountains. Innes was a pioneer in Britain of directly painted landscapes in a rather primitive style, which he first used in Collioure in the South of France in 1908. (Prior to Collioure, he’d painted in a conventionally academic manner.) He exhibited with the Camden Town Group in 1911, but like his friend Augustus John was only a fringe member.



4 thoughts on “Arenig Fawr

  1. Hello Clive, this is a fascinating still life. It is good how you have made the paint and surface effectively and (poetically?) suggest a great deal more than is articulated or depicted.

    • Hello Jack. Good to see you here.

      I’ve had to teach myself over the years not to overwork the life out of paint. I can be a tad obsessive, and in the large narrative works such as the annunciation paintings and the images of saints with Renaissance-inspired flowery meads underfoot, I’ve been known to creep steadily over the surfaces for months, meticulously putting in every last petal, working paint to almost lacquer-like perfection. While that’s all fine and dandy when it suits the subject-matter, there are things that are lost: rawness, and the excitement to be found in paint worked fast and then left with all its imperfections.

      To undermine my tendencies, I began to densely score the surfaces of the panels I like to work on, using blades and nails to roughen the grounds. I employed sgraffito, both through wet paint with the end of a brush, and scratched through dry paint with an engraving tool. (Click HERE to see a detail from an annunciation in which I used dry sgraffito to make the hearts of sunflowers.) These days I also use glass-paper, to work dry paint back to the chalky gesso, which is what I’ve done with the flying curtain in the image above. (Gesso is something of a recent discovery to me, in the sense that I’d previously always painted over a ground primed only with red oxide.) The light hitting the summits of Arenig is deep sgraffito, scored through to the wood. This disrupts the surface so thoroughly, that it appears to glitter. All these techniques incline me to leave any patches of rawness, and so the overall tendency to overwork is undermined.

      Well spotted my friend, ‘suggest’ is absolutely the right word. Suggestion is everything when it comes to paint.

  2. I think yours is a lovely picture Clive. The colours are luminous and the composition is as meticulous as ever. That chequed fabric also is so well rendered it is completely tangible, like all the items on the table. I love the foliate-man jug best of all though. It’s interesting to think that in another artistic life you could have become a potter, if you had been pulled more strongly in that direction?

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