Spectral Pegasus: Dark Movements



My exhibition Dark Movements, made in collaboration with the American poet, Jeffery Beam, ran through the Summer of 2015 at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The dancer Jordan Morley was tireless in his support for the project, turning himself inside-out and back-to-front to be my model for all the paintings.

Three years on and Jeffrey’s dream to have his poems published, alongside images of the paintings they had accompanied in the exhibition, has come to pass. Tireless encouragement for the project came from Sarah Parvin (aka The Curious One), who has also contributed an essay, and from Jeffery’s close circle of admirers and supporters, among whom Maria Maestre has been a significant moving force for both author and artist. My heartfelt congratulations to Kin Press, who published the book, and to J.C. Mlozanowski, who edited and designed it. I doff my cap to the many who helped bring Spectral Pegasus: Dark Movements to the finishing line, but especially to Stanley. (He knows why!)

My thanks for a contribution, each, from Mary Ann Constantine, reprinted with permission from Planet magazine, and from Claire Pickard, reprinted with permission from the blog of New Welsh Review.

And an especially warm thank you to Eve Ropek, whose support of Dark Movements when she was in post as Exhibitions Officer at the Arts Centre, was unflagging, insightful and inspiring throughout.

Spectral Pegasus: Dark Movements

Poems by Jeffery Beam and artworks by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Published by Kin Press

Copies available from Pen’rallt Bookshop, Machynlleth.


In an event organised by Pen’rallt Books, the poet will be reading from his work at:

MoMA Machynlleth

Wednesday May 15th, 2019

7:00 PM – 8:45 PM



The Dark Movements Toy Theatre, from start to finish.

The Dark Movements Toy Theatre is finished.

Here it is in detail, from first sketches to completion.

The origins of the toy theatre lie in my Mari Lwyd series begun in 1999, The Mare’s Tale

The world of The Mare’s Tale is one of perpetual night. Landscapes and buildings alike are without foundation. The ground shifts, full of traps for the unwary. In this expressionist realm, everything is fractured and dissolving, the air full of spirits and voices. The Mari itself is a shapeshifting thing of many guises, from a monstrous biped with beast’s skull atop a winding-sheet, stalking a landscape of bone-white mausolea…

… to a supernatural horse streaming through the firmament

Preparatory drawing for the toy theatre

Every theatre must have a curtain, behind which all is hidden until the audience has assembled. When everyone is ready, the lights dim, voices become hushed and the curtain whispers into the darkness so that the mysteries are unveiled.

I wanted there to be a Mari Lwyd to welcome the audience as it gathers, and because this is a toy theatre, I envisaged this aspect of the Mari as being elegant, playful and feminine.

To begin with the proscenium arch is cut from medium density fibreboard

After a couple of coats of gesso and paint, the pencil-rendering begins

First to be completed is the drop-curtain

The proscenium arch contains many references from my recent series of paintings, Borderlands


A tower within its ruined curtain-wall and a discontinued viaduct below…


… a chapel crowned with flames…

… and darkly twisting houses with steep-pitched roofs and high chimneys belching coal-smoke

Candles splutter and curtains billow

This is a restless world.

The Dark Movements Toy Theatre, alongside puppets and scenery for it, will be on show in my Mari Lwyd exhibition

Dark Movements

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

June 6th – July 25th 2015

‘Dark Movements’: building a Mari Lwyd toy theatre

Work has begun in the studio on building a Mari Lwyd toy theatre for my exhibition Dark Movements at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre this summer. I already have a framework for the theatre, and so what remains to be done is to make the proscenium arch, drop-curtain, scenery and puppets.

My first drawing for a proscenium was relatively straight forward, and conformed to a pretty standard toy theatre type.

On to a more elaborate idea, based on the shape of a slate headstone. A cartouche has a Mari Lwyd design in it, and urns carry twin cypress trees. All quite mausoleum-like.

Having warmed up, it’s down to the real work, and a proscenium emerges that contains the iconography of my Mare’s Tale and later Borderlands paintings: a tower standing above a ruined curtain-wall, skewed houses and chapels and a crumbling viaduct. Flames leap from the roof of a chapel.

Below, one of the Borderlands series of paintings.


Everything skews more tortuously in this drawing, and the horizontals of the earlier design are tipped. The world of my Mari Lwyd is invariably chaotic and disorienting.

And finally, the design as it will translate to the model. It rears higher and skews more sharply, and the soft mound has turned craggy in this expressionist world without curves. The drop-curtain… see the small sketch to the left of the tower… has the drapes being swept aside by the monstrous form of the Mari in its ‘horse cadaver’ guise.

Below: Not yet sure whether the curtain will be dark and musty velvet trimmed with tassels, or the Mari’s ghostly winding-sheet.

I’m off to find the jig-saw!


Photographs of the first-stage of the proscenium, cut from medium density fibreboard and awaiting a coat of primer.

The Mare’s Tale at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

It gives me great pleasure to announce that I am to have an exhibition in the main gallery at Aberystwyth Arts Centre next Summer. The dates will be June 6th – July 25th.

Above: detail of a Mari Lwyd drawing, 2013

It will be the first comprehensive gathering of work I’ve produced since 2001 on the theme of the Mari Lwyd, including many of the large Conté pencil drawings made for my original series titled The Mare’s Tale, held in public and private collections across Wales, plus illustrations I made for the Old Stile Press edition of The Mare’s Tale: poems by Catriona Urquhart, published in 2001. Added to this will be all the design work produced for the 2013 chamber-work of the same title, composed by Mark Bowden with a libretto by Damian Walford Davies.

Deposition III. Private Collection

The Mare’s Tale chamber-work was first performed by Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra at Theatr Brycheiniog last September, and the exhibition will include stage-designs and graphic design work made for the production, plus all of the puppets, models and maquettes I produced for sequences filmed by Pete Telfer and projected onto the stage during the performance. Puppet and animation sequences will be screened during the exhibition in a dedicated space.

Below: model for the chamber-work of The Mare’s Tale

Below: puppets made for the chamber-work

To bring things up to date, there will be new easel drawings and paintings on the theme, produced since the stage performance and for which I’ve reviewed my original material through the prism of Mark’s score and Damian’s libretto. From time to time I’ll be posting updates here re progress and developments on the project.