The Mare’s Tale Rises



On Saturday, Here + Now: Eighty Years of Collecting Contemporary Art for Wales, opens at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff. Curated by Dr Peter Wakelin and made in association with the National Eisteddfod, the exhibition runs from 3rd – 11th August, and thereafter goes on a tour of Wales. One of the works on display is my large drawing of 2001, Stumbles and Cannot Rise from my Mari Lwyd series The Mare’s Tale, on loan from National Museum Wales.

It’s coincidental that the week the exhibition opens also marks the announcement that the Berkeley Ensemble will next year tour performances of composer Mark Bowden’s staggeringly atmospheric music work, with a libretto by Damian Walford Davies that drew inspiration from my drawings. The exciting news is that the Mare’s Tale tour is a national one, and there will be performances of it in England, Scotland and Wales, and I’m enormously obliged to the PRS Foundation, Creative Scotland and Arts Council NI for funding the project.

It’s thrilling news that two music works I’ve collaborated so closely on, Hansel and Gretel by composer Matthew Kaner and poet Simon Armitage for Kate Romano’s Goldfield Productions, currently on a tour of England, and The Mare’s Tale by Mark and Damian, are both being carried to a wide audience.

A live performance of Hansel and Gretel is to be broadcast later this year by Radio 3. Date to be announced.

Below: Stop-motion test made for a workshop performance of The Mare’s Tale in 2013.


8 thoughts on “The Mare’s Tale Rises

  1. Well done Clive! seems like you’ve got lots of lovely things going on at the moment.
    (I though your workload was almost in danger of getting a bit lighter for a nano-second there!! should have known better 🙂 )

    I’m excited to think I might get a chance to finally see The Mare’s Tale! 🙂
    (something I didn’t think would happen)

    P.S I am very happy to lend my carpentry / technical drawing / model making / tea making skills etc.. should they be required!

  2. Congratulations Clive! It will be an absolute treat to finally be able to see a performance of ‘The Mare’s Tale’. It looks as though 2019 is shaping up to be the year of the Mari, with ‘Spectral Pegasus/Dark Movements’, the book and CD of poetry and paintings from your 2015 collaboration with Jeffery Beam, also being published.

    I hope this renewed – and much deserved – attention on one of the defining moments in your career will mean that the paintings and drawings from both ‘The Mare’s Tale’ series and the ‘Dark Movements’ series will be exhibited for us to see again. I still think of your ‘Beastie Boys’ paintings, from a couple of years ago, as a continuation of this theme, so I am lobbying for these paintings to be included in any future exhibition as well, as I find them utterly spellbinding. All I can say is any gallery owners/curators out there, who are reading this, please take note and make this exhibition real!

    I am happy to admit that I still haven’t given up hope of one day seeing you choreograph Jordan Morley in a performance of one of Jeffery’s poems, a couple of which have now been set to music. I would love to see the visionary ‘Dark Movements’ paintings and poems come to life in this way, especially at a time that the earlier incarnation of ‘the beast conjured from skull and sheet and ribbons’ is taking centre stage on ‘The Mare’s Tale’ national tour!!

    Finally, what amazing news about the live broadcast of ‘Hansel & Gretel’ on Radio 3 later this year. How rewarding for all involved to bring this experience to a close by having a performance from this first tour of the production recorded for posterity by the BBC. I’ve said it before and I shall say it again, ‘Bravo!’

    • Thank you, S, for your generous remarks above.

      The Mari Lwyd shall indeed be taking a bit of a canter out next year. The Mare’s Tale, with music by Mark Bowden and a libretto by Damian Walford Davies, is long overdue an airing, as it has only been heard once, in the single, Arts Council Wales-funded performance in 2014, the year that it was commissioned and written. (It was due further performances that year, but therein lies a long and tortuous tale of administrative break-down that others must account for.) It’s brilliant news that the Berkeley Ensemble is undertaking a concert version of it on a national tour next year. TMT is a wonderfully rich and nuanced work that deserves to be heard widely, and moreover there’s an amazing tour-de-force role for an actor/singer at the core of it that is going to be a marvellous and challenging opportunity for whoever gets cast in the piece.

      There are no Mari Lwyd/Mare’s Tale/Dark Movements exhibitions planned for 2019. Exhibitions are such long-time-in-the-planning events, often booked several years in advance, that neither the relatively recent news of the publication in the US of Jeffery’s Spectral Pegasus/Dark Movements poems – illustrated with images from my Dark Movements series of paintings – or the 2019 tour by the Berkeleys of a work that had been inspired by my Mare’s Tale series of drawings, are planned to tie into any sort of gallery event.

      The original Mare’s Tale and Dark Movements artworks are scattered wide. Gallery events of the kind you envisage are costly to organise, involving loans, insurance, transport and storage, and that’s without even considering the spaces where they might show. In 2011 the National Library of Wales gathered together a substantial number of the original Mare’s Tale drawings from private and public collections for my 60th birthday ‘retrospective’ in the enormous Gregynog Gallery, and it was only in 2015 that Dark Movements showed for three months in a lavishly mounted exhibition at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. It’s hard to imagine that with those outings so recent, any gallery in Wales, private or public, will feel another exhibition of my work on the theme could be justified. Granted that the publication in the US of the Spectral Pegasus poems, coupled with the Berkeley’s tour of The Mare’s Tale in the UK, come as welcome news to me. To have inspired other creatives to respond, as Mark, Damian and Jeffery have – and Catriona Urquhart before them – to a body of thematic work made originally as a private expression of grief over my father’s death, rather overwhelms me. Next year will be exciting in all sorts of ways, but I think what I’m looking forward to more than anything, is to be part of the audience to it all, my own work having been completed.

      News too, that Damian Walford Davies’ libretto for The Mare’s Tale, is at last to be published, illustrated with some of the original Mare’s Tale series of drawings, and it will be out to coincide with the tour.

      • I fully appreciate all that you write Clive about my wishes for another exhibition, but still hope springs eternal in me!

        What has been inspiring, in the last couple of years, is seeing your work on both ‘Hansel & Gretel’ and ‘Sir Gawain & the Green Knight’ bring you to a much wider audience, which has also meant many people being given the opportunity to own a piece of your art for the first time, with your move into printmaking, in the company of the Penfold Press. I know it is often very hard for a Welsh or Scottish artist – even when they are a painter of your calibre – to be made the subject of a major exhibition outside their own country, with a London-centric art world in control. Despite this barrier, I am going to continue hoping that one of our more enlightened public galleries – the inspirational Pallant House Gallery perhaps? – will choose to explore the richly storiated landscape of your artistic career before too long. It would be good to see the Mari Lwyd and company venturing across those borderlands into exciting new territory.

        In the meantime, I am glad to read that you plan to take the time to relish the many gifts that your artistic collaborators are due to reward you with next year. Enjoy!

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