Border Country at the National Eisteddfod

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It’s a sadness not to have been with Peter in Abergavenny for the opening of his exhibition Border Country at the National Eisteddfod. But with time ticking on my forthcoming Gawain exhibition at the Martin Tinney Gallery in September, I had to stay home to work. I’ll see Border Country later this year, when it’s on tour.

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Of the four artists in the exhibition, John Elwyn (whose painting is on the cover of the catalogue above) and Bert Isaac are dead. Joan Baker will be attending the exhibition this week, but Charles Burton and his wife Rosemary, herself a painter, were able to be present for the opening, brought from Cardiff by Dave and Philippa Robbins who live just around the corner from them.


Rosemary and Charles Burton in front of his painting of a steam train in the south Wales Valleys. (Croeso is the Welsh word for Welcome.)

Peter and I knew John Elwyn, having visited his Winchester home and studio in his latter years. Bert Isaac and his wife Joan were friends, and we visited them frequently in Abergavenny, where they held regular exhibitions of local artists in the ‘orangery’ of their beautiful Georgian house.

We are especially close with Charlie and Rosemary, and when Peter and I lived in Cardiff we saw a lot of them. (We had gallery-visiting holidays together in Paris and Venice, and in Venice we were joined by Liz Sangster, another painter and close friend from my days in the theatre.) That little painting of a steam train usually hangs in the kitchen at Ty Isaf. We purchased it, along with another piece the same size, from a Cardiff antique dealer before we knew the Burtons. In fact it was the acquisition of the paintings that stirred Peter’s interest to trace and then contact Charlie, who had retired from teaching. He was still painting, though not for the most part exhibiting. These days both he and Rosemary show regularly at the Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff.



I love the colour red chosen by Peter as a background to the paintings. Beautiful.

Border Country

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Peter Wakelin has curated an exhibition, Ffiniau opening this Friday (29th July) at the National Eisteddfod showground in Abergavenny, and thereafter touring three venues across Wales. He’s produced a fully illustrated booklet to go with the exhibition that will be available from the venues, and from The Art Shop & Chapel, Abergavenny. Peter writes of Ffiniau:

‘In his influential autobiographical novel of 1960, Border Country, Raymond Williams explored the changing lives of people on the Welsh borders, in town, village, farm and industrial valley, from the 1920s to the 1950s. This book is about how four painters who were contemporaries of Raymond Williams similarly reflected the reality of daily life in south Wales before 1960 – Joan Baker, Charles Burton, John Elwyn and Bert Isaac.’

Ffiniau: four painters in Raymond Williams’ Border Country

National Eisteddfod of Wales, Abergavenny, 29 July – 6 August 2016

Oriel Wrecsam, 13 August – 3 September 2016

MOMA Machynlleth, 17 September – 19 November 2016

Chepstow Museum, 26 November 2016 – 26 February 2017