The View from Ty Isaf

I have found that in almost every circumstance, just because questions can be asked, doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be. The thin veneer of civilness that keeps society running smoothly on a macro level – and personal relationships on a micro one – doesn’t function the moment people believe that honesty, no matter how brutally expressed, is a better option than a moderated reply. We could all learn to think a bit more before speaking. So when David Cameron decided to ask people what they thought, which is what a referendum essentially is, it was almost inevitable that some of the answers were going to be damned ugly.

And here we are, awakening each morning to a system broken, to good people feeling that they’re not wanted here, to Europe understandably turning her back on us and our government collapsing in ruins around ministers who did’t have any systems in place to prepare against this outcome. This isn’t government. This is an electorate reduced to a baying mob thanks to the hubris of a prime minister who thought he could run a referendum like a TV reality show, and those around him who complied.

I am so deeply, corrosively ashamed of what’s happened. I’m ashamed of a government, divided against itself to our terrible cost. I’m ashamed of the Labour party, that didn’t put up a decent fight against the terrible events unfolding, and spoke too late and too little. I’m ashamed of the media, who misinformed, fuelled anxieties and complicated issues. Most of all I’m ashamed of the electorate, who allowed themselves to be influenced by hucksters, and then used the system to smash everything into smithereens.

Put simply, when the question is ‘Does my bum look big in this?”, the answer must take account of many things: human frailty, the need to be loved, a desire for affirmation and the hope that kindness will prevail. Kindness has not played any part in what has transpired here, and that is the single thing waking me at 5 AM every morning to a sense of the deepest loss and fear for our future.

32 thoughts on “The View from Ty Isaf

  1. Clive this is so beautifully written, you have expressed my terrible sadness and disbelief so well. I loved being a European, I love it when people, albeit argumentatively, pull together. I dread Scotland going too, and so hope they don’t. Nothing was so broken that it could not have been fixed within the system we have shunned so comprehensively.
    I still think about the first time I saw your work, by the way, it was some years ago at MOMA in Machynlleth. I was amazed and thrilled.

    • Hello Stephanie. Thank you for the kind words, much appreciated. Yes, these are strange times. We witness things I never thought to see, and wish I hadn’t. Now we have to start building again.

      Please give my very best to Chloe. Every Christmas we delight in her embroidered birds and horses on our Christmas tree, and I know our friends in France, Liz and Graham, love the ones Chloe made for them, too.

  2. I think you have voiced what so many feel. I recently read an assessment of the effect of the journalistic background on key players and how they think. It hi lighted the short term reactions that are often part of a media response. Also having worked as a teacher I have seen at first hand how easy it is to manipulate people through savvy use of the papers. Sadly they will leave this mess for others to wade through. I am devastated personally, as my husband is only half English and my son’s have a fully polyglot heritage that ranges from Ireland to Finland. But, there are good people, there are brave people and we need to rise, not fall to despair.

    • I fear that the gap widens between the privileged and the poor. When the wealthy buck all the rules and practice tax avoidance – when the powerful are morally corrupt, asset-stripping, stealing from pension funds and eliminating jobs – when bankers lie and incentivise unbridled profiteering with massive financial rewards – when government disempowers the unions that have historically protected workforces from corrupt employers – and when it sets about dismantling a health service that has been the envy of the world to replace it with a privatised pay-for-what-you-can-afford system… which believe me is what Jeremy Hunt and his cohorts have their sights on… it’s little wonder that society begins to feel divided.

      To get to the point where Farage could stand in front of that photograph of ordinary people fleeing for their lives from a malign regime, trumpeting it as something that it was not in order to fuel his xenophobic agenda, is the latest manifestation of what has been a long game. People who are not politically savvy, whose sole source of misinformation for decades has been a poisonous media drip-feeding xenophobia and disaffection, have kicked back in the only way they knew how. Society divided will always arrive at a breaking point, goaded to smash everything in sight, including the very systems helping to support it.

      It may seem staggering that Wales, a financially disadvantaged country which has greatly benefitted from European-initiated funding, has savaged the hand that was feeding it in order to express a vague unease that ‘others’ hold power, without even understanding who the real enemy is, or realising the benefits of what it has been in receipt of, or even where those benefits originate. But then the south Wales valleys have long been struggling. With industries gone and the once proud, educative and community-supportive Miner’s Institutes gone with them, decline and social deprivation have left a void into which UKIP has stealthily crept. And Wales is clearly not the only place where it’s happened.

      Civilisation can be a great thing. It can carry us forward into the future with confidence, the many benefitting from a rich cross-section of skills coming together to work for the greater good. But it is also a socio-econmic eco-system, and when unwatched and unchecked, just as in the natural world there are predators ready to take down the weak and easy targets, so in the world of unbridled capitalism the powerful prowl and feed on the unwary.

      So together we always need to be alert, to voice our disapproval the instant we know things are going wrong, to be responsible to ourselves for the ways in which we require government to function, to understand the issues, to lobby, to stand up and be counted, to use our votes well, to hold those in high office accountable and to encourage social morality and political activism in our families and communities, instead of devolving all responsibilities to those who have their own, not always admirable agendas. We need to encourage those in whom we see promise to enter the political arena, and not leave it all to a social elite who run Westminster like an old Etonian’s club.

      Look at Cameron. Just look at him, and judge him by his achievements. This is what happens when we let loose an egocentric, over-privileged and not terribly bright head-boy do a statesman’s job. This is what happens when a chancer who has no strategies ready to deal with an unwanted outcome, nevertheless jeopardises the country entrusted to his care on the single roll of a die. This is a man who doesn’t see fit to take responsibility by bending to the task of repairing what he has broken. This is a man who runs away. Believe me, sadly there are more like him waiting in the wings to step up as he sneaks off into well-insulated retirement!

  3. This is such a huge and shocking event, with so much fear and uncertainty for everyone…..I look out of my window at fields of cows and sheep, the landscape is glorious with sparkling sun followed by stunning grey clouds full of glittering rain…the birds sing, two young crows are clowning about in the puddles…and I just cannot get my mind around what has happened. It’s rather like when someone you love dies….you can’t understand how the world keeps on revolving and just ‘going about its business’ as if nothing had changed……

    • Same here, Shellie. Everything like it was, and yet different. And yes, we too have made the analogy of waking every morning to the sinking feeling that a loved one has died.

      As I cook evening meals in the kitchen, the TV on, the commercials roll out and every one of them seems something crazed and weirdly ironic, like I’ve landed in an alternative reality. None of them refer to what’s happened. They appear ignorant of seismic change. Alcohol will make you happier, perfume will render you alluring, sanitary pads will make you bounce along like you have a bad case of St Vitus dance and double-glazing will seal your house hermetically against anything bad from outside!!! Still the endlessly self-regarding preening of the cosmetics ads… can that really be Jane Fonda… Hanoi Jane… archly, coyly, smarmily exhorting ‘You know you’re worth it’… and the chirpy piping of housewives telling us how much fun washing and vacuuming can be, as though house-proud ‘trumps’ the stains on the soul of a country seen in the eyes of the world to be chronically, unrepentantly xenophobic.

      Everything the same, and yet horribly different.

  4. Dear Clive , I am a great fan of your work, your artistic sensitivities and now your political views! Well expressed and have every sympathy with your sense of frustration and foreboding. I have been following your ArtLog since 2011 and this is the first time I have been provoked into typing a comment! As your friends show in their replies you are not alone in this sense of dismay and I repeat my appreciation of your fine craft with words as well as with design and paint! Best wishes from John, proud owner of ‘The beating of the unjustly accused’

    • Dear John

      I am so pleased to hear from you. Peter and I often talk about meeting you and your partner at the National Library.

      I have a theory that every painting I make, no matter how challenging to view, will have an owner somewhere, if only the two can be put together. The Beating of the Unjustly Accused was such a painting. Everybody found it too difficult. Two galleries had returned it, saying that it was unsellable. (Not true, it was unsellable by them!) But I thought it the strongest painting in the Temptations of Solitude series, though clearly not the easiest, and it was this that brought it repeatedly back to my studio between exhibitions. And then you came along and proved everybody wrong, because you saw into the heart of the painting, and recognised that the ugliness in it was essential to its truth. Since then, whenever a painting sticks for a while, I say to Peter, “It just needs to find its John!”

      The Brexit campaign has seen a terrible strain of xenophobia rise up to shame us as a nation. It is not what I expected to see here. We should know better. I don’t know how we’re going to mend the terrible damage done, but as an artist and as a man I know that it’s crucial to both paint and speak the truth. I know that for you The Beating had a special resonance. It would seem that while people continue to feel themselves able to express their hatred of outsiders, the painting is always going to speak. I wish, I wish, I wish that it did not have to.

      • Thank you for replying Clive and illuminating further the power and meaning of The Beating as you saw it originally and as you interpret it now. In our old house it was on our landing, in our new home it has been promoted into the bedroom where it can get the space and prominence it deserves. We moved from the English west midlands in 2014 to our new home in Dolgellau – we wanted to get close to Machynlleth and MOMA but several houses fell through. Here we face the peaks of Cader Idris and they are a constant attraction and inspiration. We caught the opening of Peter’s recent exhibition and your talk on one of the Wednesday lectures accompanying it. I was able to say hello to Peter and wish him well before he took to the stage for his opening speech and I asked you the final question at the end of your lecture! It is a privilege being a little part of your journey and you have a rich life and enrich others. Thank you once again, best wishes from John

        • John, I’m appalled that my memory didn’t serve me better at the opening and at the talk, and that I didn’t spot and recognise you. My apologies. But how I wish that you’d said. Never hold back if you see me. I walk straight past members of my own family if the circumstances for recognising them are out of context. (It’s true, I swear.I once did it to my poor mother in the street!) Plus I guess that gallery events are so busy and there are many people, and so I kinda zone out. But I would have loved to have embraced you both and had a chat, and so please, don’t pass me by again.

          Dolgellau isn’t so very far away. You could visit us! (Or we you.)

  5. Well said, Clive. My profound sympathies, and fingers crossed that sanity will again prevail. If we in the States manage to avoid electing Trump this November it will only be because white people are a smaller percentage of the electorate than in Britain, thank god. But Trumpism needs to be more than defeated; it needs to be thoroughly repudiated, and I don’t know if that will happen. World-wide we seem to be entering a very dark end-game, at least for the current, neoliberal capitalist regime, and it’s easy to believe that our future will be more Mad Max than Star Trek.

    • Dave, time was when here in the UK we would have watched the Trump debacle with incredulity, thanking our lucky stars that such a thing would never happen here. But in a world globalised, infantilised and brutalised by the vote-on-vote-off culture of reality TV, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that politics has come to be conducted along the lines of the gladiatorial combat in a Roman amphitheatre! May the many and diverse gods help us!

      By the way, I watched Hilary on the Ellen Degeneres show, where I’d hoped to get sharp and pithy insights into the strategies of her campaign. Instead we had half an hour of them gushing like school-girls about how well Clinton has adapted to the demands made on her to pose for ‘selfies’, and on how impressed she was by the fact that one of the Kardashians had lights around the lens of her smartphone so that her selfies were of magazine-publishing quality. Illuminating. (NOT!)

      And yes, where’s Mr Spock when we need him?

  6. Thank you for this entry, Clive.
    I have cried my eyes out with it.

    I am Spanish. I live in Madrid, but was born in San Sebastián. Many people from different parts of Spain want to dismember our country. They want a Referendum to decide whether to stay together, or to go away on their own. And they don’t even want the whole of the Spanish people to be asked the question, even if we were born in those regions.

    Just like asking the question the British people were asked, without explaining the consequences and without taking into account the many British people who live in the rest of Europe, is unfair. And for the people from the rest of Europe, the question – and the answer given – feels like a rejection of us. And it is not. Not really. Because what people reject, everywhere, is not the being together, it is the huge amount of bureaucracy, added to the national and the local bureaucracies…

    I am not very good at expressing what I want to say, which is just:

    Thank You , and Love from Madrid


    • Maria, there is more that glues us together than holds us apart. Sadly, some of the others didn’t see it that way, and a vast number didn’t care enough to stir themselves to vote.

      Referendums are a bad thing. They give a voice, but they don’t take account of complexity. Not everything can be down to a yes or a no.

      I send love from a Wales that voted out. I am among those with whom I cannot stand on this matter. Like many, I feel I am a stranger in my own country.

  7. A harsh reality, perhaps, but one that is like so much of life in general and politics in particular relatively temporary. Certainly, here in the U.S. the political system seems to have failed on many levels, and in one moment of despair a few months ago I stumbled upon your art, which lifted my spirits beyond measure. I remain deeply in love with your drawings and paintings–shape, color, pattern, and the like. For me, Clive, your work (along with the work of Titian, or Goya, or so many others) is a profound response to life’s cruelties, and it continues to sustain me through one disaster after another. As long as Clive continues to paint, I think, the world is still sane. Yes, I haven’t lost hope because Clive rises at 5 a.m. to begin his day’s work, which will eventually touch my soul.

    • Ummm, Jack, I don’t know what to say. But I’ll try.

      I’m deeply, deeply touched by what you’ve written. I’ve found the Referendum to have been a frightening and isolating experience, largely because so much hatred and anger has been expressed throughout it. My way of processing both fear and grief, is to paint and draw. It’s my way of making order out of chaos. That these activities are balm for me is understandable, but it’s quite another thing to know that my work has reached out to others.

      Thank you. Please write to me. I don’t want to put my e-mail address here, but if you go to my www site and click on ‘contact’, you’ll find me.

  8. Clive,
    You have said out loud what most of us seem unable to put into words. I feel most stricken that one third of the population did not even bother to vote. I wonder if there are some regrets about that now. .My right to vote is precious to me and I always use it. I worry for the future. I worry for the future even more living in Wales. We needed EU funds for so many projects that just won’t happen now. Sad times and uncertain ones too.

  9. Almost a week on and I’m bewildered at how we have found ourselves in a dystopian-like dream overnight. I have never felt so personally affected by a political decision on my personal space. It is the lack of informed judgement that has lead us to where are now, and the subsequent (almost total) lack of political representation and response on our behalf, I find so staggering.

  10. Well put Clive, I feel sick when I think of the consequences, not just for myself but for the rest of the world, for this catastrophe is going to affect everyone in one way or another; this is more than just a butterfly’s wings disturbing the equilibrium.xxL

  11. So eloquently put. I am grieving too and in that state have that sense of disbelief at what has happened, is happening, and may happen.

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