The Thank You

My thanks to the collaborators: to Jordan Morley, who modelled and encouraged, to Jeffery Beam, who wrote the glorious poetry, to Pete Telfer, who filmed, edited and supported, to Sarah Parvin, who never stopped believing, to Peter Byrom-Smith who made the music, and last but not least among the collaborators, to Maria Maestre, who inspired and cheered all of us from afar.

The Arts Centre staff have been wonderful. Eve Ropek, together with Tim Walley and Jen Loffman, worked tirelessly to produce, present and run the exhibition to the highest standards. It looked fantastic, better than I dared hope.

My framer, Anthony at Oriel y Bont, danced around my crazed schedule of delivering new works right up to the finishing line. His care and attention to every detail of the presentation of paintings and drawings, meant that I was able to pour my energies where they were most needed.

Finally the exhibition was ready and it was time to throw open the doors to the gallery.

Poet Gillian Clarke enthralled guests with her opening speech. Mary Ann Constantine wrote the preview for Planet Magazine, and later during the run of the exhibition expertly guided the evening of ‘Conversation’ in front of an audience in the cinema auditorium. Francesca Rydderch introduced Dark Movements in the handsome fold-out presented to visitors to the gallery. Eric Roberts, Damian Walford Davies and Mary Ann Constantine read the poetry of Jeffery Beam and Catriona Urquhart to visitors at a gallery event, and Damian read an extract from his libretto for The Mare’s Tale, the 2013 chamber-work by composer Mark Bowden based on my Mari Lwyd drawings. Eric, who had performed the original piece, sang to close the event, and we were all without words after his hauntingly beautiful performance.

Finally, I come to Peter Wakelin. Without his support there would be no Dark Movements. Let’s face it, there wouldn’t be anything. He is and has always been my rock. When I’m preoccupied, driven and obsessed, I know I cannot be an easy person to be around. Most of you see the best of me, but he gets all the dark stuff too, and yet he continues, unwavering.

On Saturday July 25th I’m to give a maquette-making workshop titled Illusions of Life at the Arts Centre, and at the end of business on that day, the gallery doors will close and the exhibition Dark Movements will be over. I’ll try to organise a few minutes alone in the space before I walk away from it. I imagine it will be rather like taking leave of a group of friends brought together for a special occasion. So many of you are tied up in the exhibition in so many ways, and your presences have been felt there… even those of you who because of great distances weren’t able to come… woven into the warp and weft of the work.

After such an intense period of collaboration and sharing, I know it will feel very odd indeed when the curtain has come down and the show is over. There will be a crash for me of some sort, and I must work out strategies for getting through it. This one feels as though it will be painful. I have never before in my practice as a painter worked quite so extensively and so enjoyably with so many. It will be the oddest sensation not to be daily in the company of such a group as this one has become.

Your support and creative energy have been fuel to the work. Your streams of e-mails and messages have kept me fizzing. There are other projects to look forward to, and the friendships will continue, I know. But this particular party, which I have so enjoyed, will be over.

Work begets work, and ideas develop from what gets made. I intend to continue building on what was started in Dark Movements. I feel the dance isn’t quite over yet.

Dear Jordan

Dear Jordan

This letter is by way of a thank you. Last night in the cinema auditorium of Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Mary-Ann Constantine and I had a ‘conversation’ about Dark Movements in front of an audience. We sat on the stage in comfortable armchairs, a table between us laid with glasses and water-jug and a multi-directional microphone that allowed us to speak conversationally, and yet be heard by everyone. Peter and I know Mary-Ann and her family quite well now. We live about a twenty-minute drive from each other, and we have all become friends, spending time in each others company. She is insightful, eloquent, sometimes enigmatic, and occasionally challenging. It is her way. Mary-Ann has the capacity to come at you with a razor-sharp intellect that takes no hostages, and when she casts those blue eyes questioningly in your direction, you’d better have a good answer. But she’s also very funny, and has a way with a put-down that can make me bark out loud with shock and pleasure. Mary-Ann has had much to do with this exhibition. She wrote the preview of it for Planet Magazine, and she was one of the readers in the gallery poetry event on June 13th. So it was her I asked to be my interrogator in the cinema auditorium, and she agreed. Moreover, I advised her not to tell me anything of what she planned by way of questions in advance, so that my answers would be fresh.

She was brilliant last night. She set the context of my work so cleverly… and so thoroughly… that for a while there I though I might not have to say anything, but just smile benignly and nod. But when her questions came, I was off like a rocket, because she’d so cleverly opened the door for me to pass through. Moreover she handled the audience skilfully, and when the time came for questions toward the end, there were none of those embarrassingly long silences that can make such occasions rather unnerving. (I’ve attended many a question-and-answer where the participants on-stage have been reduced to begging their audience for questions!) Mary-Ann coaxed them masterfully, and the hands began to go up.

She spoke of you, as did I. I tried to describe the way we started working together on the later-to-be-cancelled Barcelona exhibition. How I sent you a script that I suggested you ‘enact’ for the camera, and how you’d returned photographs, not just of your responses to the script, but unexpected images posed as ‘twisters’, re-workings of shapes you’d seen in the Mari Lwyd drawings in the book I’d sent you.

Last night, as giant images of you from the completed Dark Movements paintings were projected onto the cinema-screen behind us, they combined in memory with my recollections of how we originally responded to each other (when was that now? I can’t recall) leading to friendship, trust and creativity. I realised that in some way this version of you… blue, naked, armoured, tulip-emblazoned and comet-tailed with hair, floating spectre-like over the event, intriguing all onlookers, simultaneously geographically distant and yet dynamically present… this ‘gallery’ Jordan is less the version that is significant to me, than the man behind it, who’s funny, mischievous, practical, supportive and emotionally generous.

Jordan, I wish you could have been there. I imagined you, sitting in the front row with John, your faces alight with the spectacle of what was unfolding on the screen:

Jordan as disarticulating maquette…

Jordan as silver-armoured centaur/knight…

Jordan as horseman of the apocalypse…



 and Muse!

Sending love to you and John from Wales,

Clive xxx

‘Dark Movements’

Moving toward Dark Movements


In 2002, when I completed the drawing On the Mountain in the series The Mare’s Tale, I believed it marked the end of my work on the theme of the Mari Lwyd. The series had absorbed me for two years. There had been, in short order, two big exhibitions of the work in Wales, and some of the drawings had thereafter travelled with a mixed exhibition, titled Dreaming Awake, to the Terezín Memorial Gallery in the Czech Republic. The poet Catriona Urquhart and I had collaborated throughout the process of making the drawings, and she wrote a series of poems about my father that became the text of The Mare’s Tale at Newport Museum & Art Gallery in 2001 and an edition for The Old Stile Press which I illustrated.

On the Mountain, 2002

On the Mountain, 2002

While The Mare’s Tale was an exploration I needed to undertake, its underlying themes were based on distressing events. A point of emotional weariness came at which I realized it was time to bring the series to an end. Catriona Urquhart’s early death in 2005 seemed to me to draw a line under it.

In 2013, the composer Mark Bowden and poet Damian Walford Davies brought new insights to the subject with a chamber-work for ensemble and performer that was inspired by my drawings and by the poems and biographical events. The libretto was conjured as a new fiction to make a dark and glittering psychological ghost story. I designed and directed the production, also titled The Mare’s Tale. It was extraordinary to watch what had started with my drawings, evolve into a performance for an orchestra and a singer/actor. Eric Roberts played the role of Morgan Seyes, drenched in my late father’s terror of the Mari Lwyd.

That same year a plan evolved for an exhibition of my Mari Lwyd work at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, borrowing from public and private collections and adding the stage-designs, puppets and maquettes I’d made for the performance. I had no plans at that time to make new artworks. The exhibition would be a retrospective.

I’d been drawing an American dancer, Jordan Morley, intending a small series of paintings of him for a group ‘portrait’ exhibition I’d been asked to participate in at a gallery in Barcelona. Jordan and I were evolving processes of working together – in New York he acted out scenarios I suggested to him in e-mails from Wales, capturing them in series of photographs that he downloaded and sent to me. At some point we talked about the forthcoming Arts Centre Mari Lwyd exhibition and he began to steep himself in all the work that had gone before. Unexpectedly he produced a set of photographs of himself playing on the shapes and forms of the drawings I’d made fifteen years ago. Using those I built maquettes of him and arranged them into compositions. Ideas stirred. A title evolved, Dark Movements. For me, once there is a title, the art follows.

From North Carolina the poet Jeffery Beam watched what was developing. We were already working together on another project, but something in Dark Movements spoke to him, and new poems came as a result of what he saw emerging from my studio. Those poems inspired further paintings from me. Collaborations, when they work well, fly back and forth between the participants with increasing energy.

Interested parties watched and contributed to the process through social media. Maria Maestre in Spain left illuminating comments at my blog that carried painter and poet in some unexpected directions. Composer Peter Byrom-Smith in Yorkshire prepared his score for Jane’s Dream – a ‘visual poem’ edited by Pete Telfer and me from footage of puppets we’d filmed in 2013 – by watching animated segments posted at Facebook. (Jane’s Dream is being screened in the gallery throughout Dark Movements.) Sarah Parvin (aka ‘The Curious One’) curated a Dark Movements board at Pinterest, that presents her own take on how the project has drawn together many threads from my past themes.

In 2000, my collaboration with Catriona Urquhart took place around kitchen tables, on long walks in the countryside, and occasionally in phone calls when she would read drafts to me. Today the collaborations of Dark Movements have been conducted with social media, e-mails and selfies. I’d set out with no goal other than to visit the grave where I’d left the Mari in that last drawing fifteen years ago, but the habits of ‘making’ can’t be stilled. New collaborations emerge. New words, fresh paints, dancers, puppets and toy theatres kindle a phoenix-flame under the bones, and suddenly the old girl is up and off again, and at a fair old lick. It seems you can’t keep a good horse down, not even after it’s been buried.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins

May 2015


Dark Movements: ten new works, fifteen years on from The Mare’s Tale

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 11th June – 25th July 2015

One: The Quickening

Two: Yarden

Three: Flowering Skin

Four: Drift

Five: Veil

Six: Pegasus

Seven: Pale Horse

Eight: The Citadel

Nine: Horse/Man

Ten: Birth

“The searching is my dynamic. I don’t believe in the gold at the end of the rainbow, but I do believe in the rainbow.”

Derek Jarman

together, the first five

Many have written to me speculating how the ten new works planned for Dark Movements will look when on the gallery walls. Here are the first five, in the order in which they were painted.

The Quickening

The Quickening


Flowering Skin



Dark Movement: fifteen years of the Mari Lwyd in the work of Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

11th June – 25th July

‘Veil’: from start to finish


Acrylic, gouache and oil-based pencil on board. 59 x 84 cms

Starting point


The painting begins

Below: working in front of the Dark Movements Toy Theatre


Acrylic, gouache and oil-based pencil on board. 59 x 84 cms


From poet Jeffery Beam to Clive Hicks-Jenkins on the matter of Drift:

“So dear Horseman

Are you/Jordan/Mari adrift at the moment in the story? Why does Jordan look so sad?”

From Clive to Jeffery:

“That’s a tough one. Thousands of ‘moments’ of endeavour go into these drawings, and all of them experienced in heightened states of emotion. Choose any one of the moments and you’d have a different answer from me.

It’s like this. New day, new work. Around me a scattering of thumb-nail sketches, some studies and maybe a worked up detail or two that might make it into the finished image.

There are the poems too, printed out from your e-mails to me. Sometimes I cut out a line or a verse, to concentrate my thoughts. These trimmed fragments lie across the table. Occasionally I sweep them aside, or pull out one that catches my attention. They have a life of their own, especially if the window is open and a breeze ruffles the work surface, spinning them in ticker-tape flurries to the corners of the room.

The board is in front of me… the stage on which the performance will take place… and a pencil is in my hand. (Sometimes the right, sometimes the left. Which will it be today? One hand makes me deft, the other, visionary. I usually draw with the right and paint with the left, but mood can make me reverse the habit.) The board is the clean sheet, the screen on which I’ll attempt to project a partially-formed dream.

You ask me why Jordan looks so sad.

Perhaps because his is the beating heart in this universe of dishevelled, snaky foliate-ness and thundering hooves bearing down upon fragile flesh. His face is the still point drawing the eye and begging the question… why?

From Jeffery to Clive:

“So many transformations: the reappearance of the scarf; the reappearance of the one glove and in a purple hue; not only the complete transference of the tulips to the Mari, but also the left arm back in the jacket and the right arm bare; blue seeming to infuse even the scarf and hair more and more; the spots on the horse’s body and the Mari’s now blue color as the tulips have emerged out its red body revealing its blue undercoat; and the severely diminishing head of the Mari (what to make of that?).

You have challenged us all with this image – as stealthfully as you challenge yourself.”

“Tell me. Why Drift?”

From Clive to Jeffery:

I begin with an underdrawing, sometimes faint like smoke, sometimes confident, usually a bit of both, mostly fluid at this early stage. Then the painting and the rendering begin. It feels as though I’m attempting to produce a mosaic from thousands of glittering tesserae, each one of them a different micro-thought flashing through my brain. When I’m working away I have to make the image one tiny tile-of-thought at a time, and it’s as though this flood of thoughts and moods spreads across the board. The thoughts/voices/poetry at this point are a cacophony, and I have to try and catch at the most insistent ones to fathom their meanings, all while listening/watching for the next to emerge. Each takes me where it will. I get buffeted in one direction by playful zephyrs, carried smoothly for periods on the dazzling surface, or dragged down into deep currents where all is shadowy and cold. Sometimes everything slows and then halts. I trace the curved route for the stem of a tulip, graze a petal with the striations of it’s markings. Becalmed, I drift.

Then something pulls at me again, the insistent and unguessable current reasserting, the line of poetry that lightning-flashes in the head, the breeze though the open window that sends all the fragments of drawings and poetry flying, and in a moment I’m away again, off into the unknown.”

From Jeffery to Clive:

“I see all the transformations/transfigurations in the piece from Flowering Skin to Drift as I recounted in my posting comment. But wonder what in your imagination leads to this title. I’m so curious about the change in the Mari’s head size too.”

From Clive to Jeffery:

“Your question had me turning to the pages of Montserrat Prat’s chapter on the Mare’s Tale drawings in the 2011 Lund Humphries monograph. Montserrat writes of the male figures in the series that are…”

“… reminiscent of the ancient Greeks; not ancient sculpture that aimed at ideal form, but vase paintings that portrayed the ordinary and the imperfect. In black and red painted vases, Greek heroes are distorted. Often their heads are small on their invincible, naked bodies, their faces shown in profile to spare expression.”

Study for Burden. Conté pencil on paper. 2000

“Jeffery, it seems to me the beast in Drift is like those Greek heroes, all muscle and power and not a lot of thinking. Visually magnificent, though intuitive rather than reasoning. The horse/Mari is becalmed, and not kinetic as it appears in other works. Here it stands proud and beautiful, enmeshed in red arabesques of parrot tulips, awaiting the impetus for action. Benign protector/muscular anchor for Jordan in a shifting universe, or perhaps the beast within that pauses before attacking.

I see that I’m probably turning answers into more questions.”

Burden. Conté pencil on paper. 2000

And finally, what some of the others have to say.

Marly Youmans:

“Still pondering how different this mythic creature is from the horses in the Mari Lwyd series in your retrospective… And how it is influenced by the patterns you’ve painted on skin in between. And how the red ribbony harness becomes a stem with leaves and flowers–it is good for harsh things to become foliate.”

Above: serpentine ribbon snaps and flows through this detail from Red Flow, 2002

Below: parrot tulips unfurl and writhe across the Mari in a detail from Drift, 2015

Maria Maestre on Drift:

“For me, it is the one violet glove, gleaming near the horse’s rump like a fan with it’s own enigmatic and secret language, which holds the key to the whole painting, telling me story after story, depending of how I look at it.”

Janet Kershaw on Drift:

“I love the shape of this horse and the way she fills the space in this composition. Peaceful and contented. The title Drift suggests to me a floating silently in space, in a vacuum, like a dream. Now the horse is completely patterned, and a glove is off, as if some transference has taken place.”

Phil Cooper on Flowering Skin:

“I’m loving the Borderlands imagery coming into these new Mari images; I was fortunate enough to see those Boderlands paintings in the flesh at the Mall Galleries last summer and I was mesmerised by them, they had such presence.
In this new work, though, those flowers across Jordan’s chest are so sexy!”

Sarah the Curious One on Yarden:

“Who would have expected ravishing parrot tulips and a magnificent Mari as Jordan’s protector? Definitely not me!

All good storytellers know an element of surprise is the key to telling their tale and you have not let us down with ‘Yarden’, Clive. Bravo!”

Liz Sangster on Drift:

“I love the way you have achieved the power and size of a horse, I feel as though I am very small looking up at the head. Jordan literally appears to drift; the violet glove against the blue is an inspiration, and the whole painting is so luminous…”

What Lies Beneath: Part Two

Jordan flowering skin

I am the Bastard Angel and the Virgin Devil
I am Again and Then and Was and Ever
I am assembling and the wind is blowing
I am the tale telling itself again

― from Big Bang: The River Jordan by Jeffery Beam

In the first part of my guest post on the forthcoming Dark Movements exhibition, I write about how I see the Horse as a totem for Clive, his guide to a place located beyond conscious thought. The artist describes his relationship with the Mari Lwyd, the skeletal horse of Welsh mumming tradition, using a quote from Picasso: ‘A form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange hostile world and us: a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors, as well as our desires.’

The psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who was an artist himself, saw the creative process as having the potential to go beyond the individual into something deeper which reflects humankind. Although Jung acknowledged it was perfectly possible for art to be produced with its creator in conscious control, his fascination was for the artist who obeyed his impulses, as if possessed by an external force.  Montserat Prat, writing about The Mare’s Tale in the Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ monograph, published in 2011, describes how the final drawings in the series are imbued with a frenzy and intensity. These drawings were executed by Clive on his hands and knees, day in day out, over several months. His grief is palpable and raw. In the last drawing of the series, On the Mountain (2002), it as if the Mari, the artist and his father have become one, an embattled creature, weary and broken from a war that has been waged and lost. There are no victors here.

On the Mountain, 2002

On the Mountain, 2002

In 2013, The Mare’s Tale became a work for chamber orchestra and voice by composer Mark Bowden and librettist Damian Walford Davies, based on the Mari Lwyd series of drawings. Clive designed and directed the production. After a decade, the Mari of the artist’s imaginings had turned into an archetypal symbol from our ancient history, a Horse God galloping through time.

The Bronze Age Uffington White Horse

The Bronze Age Uffington White Horse

We are now fifteen years on from when Clive created the series of drawings, which became known as The Mare’s Tale, and Jordan Morley is the new player in the theatre of the artist’s soul.  The Quickening (2015) shows the dancer lost in a reverie, dreams flowing into him from his maker’s hand, which magically change the once spectral beast into a majestic flesh and blood animal, with flowers blooming in its belly. Jordan describes the experience of being painted by Clive as ‘a runaway dream that has a life of its own’.  The Muse and the Mari are merging to become the artist’s conduit, catalyst and spirit guide. All are transformed.

The Quickening

The Quickening, 2015

The unconscious is not just evil by nature, it is also the source of the highest good: not only dark but also light, not only bestial, semi-human, and demonic but superhuman, spiritual, and, in the classical sense of the word, ‘divine’. ― C.G. Jung

Carl Jung viewed the dreamscape as a place of the future, where transformation can happen and potential is explored and unleashed. There is a sense of optimism in this cycle of the Mari paintings, which would not have seemed possible at the time of The Mare’s Tale.  The evidence suggests that we are witnessing an artist creating a dream for the collective mind.


Jeffery Beam, the American poet, has said he felt compelled to join Clive and Jordan in their Dark Movements quest, describing: ‘A Troubadour-like romance, and born of it our collaboration’.  In a recent post at the Artlog, Jeffery writes movingly of the collaboration: ‘I had been in a terrible Dark Night, unable to write much, fearing I was written out completely. As Jordan has become a muse for Clive, Clive has re-ignited the duende that has always been the source of my work.’  And so the poet is transformed too. There is magic at work here.

Yarden, 2015

Your glove tells mysteries
Keep it there and my
Imaginations fill the Universe
Remove it every dream fulfills

from Glove by Jeffery Beam

As regular Artloggers will know, Derek Jarman – the filmmaker, artist, author, gardener and gay rights activist – is a long time hero of Clive’s. The two men share a history common to gay men who grew up in a time before the legalisation of homosexuality.  They each went on to document their stories in a unique and deeply personal way, which ultimately speaks of universal truths. Both men found solace, meaning and inspiration in nature – Derek Jarman at Prospect Cottage in Dungeness, Clive at Tretower Castle and later at Ty Isaf, his home in Wales.

Tretower Castle, 2004

Tretower Castle, 2004


Spring at Ty Isaf

Spring at Ty Isaf

prospect cottage

Prospect Cottage, Dungeness

Jarman, whose work was influenced by Carl Jung, wrote of his hopes for the future of the gay community, shortly before his death from AIDS in February 1994: ‘I had to write of a sad time as a witness — not to cloud your smiles — please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages and after, put this book aside and love.  May you have a better future, love without a care, and remember we loved too.  As the shadows closed in, the stars came out. I am in love.’

Derek Jarman 3

Derek Jarman and Keith Collins, February 1994

Whatever causes night in our souls may leave stars. ― Victor Hugo

In the time that has elapsed, since The Mare’s Tale, is the nightmare slowly turning into a dream and ultimately an awakening for the artist? The gay community is equal before the law and an HIV diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it once was, at least in some in places in the world.  Man and horse are leading us beyond the battle ground to unexpected scenes of hope.

Clive told me he was in an elegiac mood, as he prepared to meet the Mari once more, yet what is becoming increasingly evident is the thrum of a much-anticipated spring after a long, dark winter in the paintings he is currently creating. Healing, transformation and renewal are the themes that are coming to the fore.  In Flowering Skin (2015), the fear which once permeated the haunted landscape of the Mari Lwyd is gone. Instead, we see a horse Clive might have ridden as a child, descending towards a wild place that his father, a man of the Welsh Borders, might have recognised as home.  The flowers blooming across Jordan’s body are straight from the heart, an outward manifestation of enduring love; a sign of what remains after the grieving is over. The artist is kindling his own bright, burning light in the cosmic darkness.

I had only to open my bedroom window, and blue air, love, and flowers entered… ― Marc Chagall

One of Jung’s favourite quotes was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: ‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.’  I do know that Clive would consider himself a ‘poor sort’ of artist if he only chose to look to his past at this significant point in his career. Instead, the artist is boldly heading towards his future, whilst re-examining his own personal mythology and the history, writ loud in many gay men’s lives, which has led him to his hard won state of grace. I have a feeling both Dr Jung and Mr Jarman would approve.

Flowering Skin, 2015

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart… Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ― C.G. Jung

Dark Movements, a multimedia exhibition charting the artist’s 15 year relationship with the Mari Lwyd, will be held at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre from 11 June – 25 July 2015. The Curious One is curating a board at Pinterest on the exhibition.









What Lies Beneath: Part One

The Second Fall

The Second Fall, 2001

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. ― C.G. Jung

In our correspondence, Mr Hicks-Jenkins has described me as a taxonomer of ideas, which is the most wonderful way of describing the sometimes intangible nature of the work that I do, which has recently evolved into The Curious One.  So to be invited by Clive to offer my own perspective on the evolution of the Mari Lwyd theme toward its present Dark Movements’ incarnation is a gift. I relish the opportunity to lay before you the collected thoughts of a passionately curious observer.

To set the scene, I will start by quoting Clive, as he re-examines his mercurial fifteen year relationship with the Mari Lwyd:

So many things are meeting in these new works: my original drawings for The Mare’s Tale (and my family history that underlies them), the recent collaborations with my model, Jordan Morley, themes of greening and renewal, my love and use of toy theatre in my practice, and of course, that old discipline of mine, long behind me but always present in my mind… and in muscle-memory… the dance.

Jordan and the Mari

Rather like the mind and memory, Clive’s narrative paintings seldom take a linear route;  instead, past, present and future intertwine in his work, never more so than as he weaves the individual threads of his personal story into the rich tapestry of the Dark Movements exhibition.

I first met Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Mari Lwyd in the immediate aftermath of my own father’s death. The powerful narrative style and emotional depth portrayed in The Mare’s Tale (1998-2002) series spoke directly to me.  I knew this work came from a primal place, a place we all go to when faced with the loss of a loved one. I am not always comfortable looking at these drawings, but look I must.

The Last Meeting, 2002

The Last Meeting, 2002

The writings of Carl Gustav Jung are a place I return to again and again for guidance. Jung studied ancient traditions, myths and practices to better understand humankind’s spiritual quest.  He wrote about an archetypal past that is hidden in every single one of us, a collective unconscious, which is an inherited collection of knowledge, images and inspiration that every human being has at birth, but of which we are unaware. However, at times of personal crisis, the psyche may open a door to the collective unconscious, oftentimes through dreams and the imagination.  By going through this door, we give ourselves an opportunity to heal.

Jung identified animals, such as the Horse, as ancient archetypes, which act as guides between the conscious and unconscious worlds.  When I came across Clive’s work I could see that the Mari had led the artist on his own journey, through the door, to the primordial source Jung described. From early on in his career as a painter, Clive instinctively gravitated towards the Horse, an animal which he has loved since childhood.  In the telling of the artist’s tale,  this ancient and magical beast has morphed, scene by scene, into father, mother, sister, lover, friend, muse and self.  What does the next act hold for the artist and his equine spirit guide?

Hippodrome (self-portrait), 2002

Hippodrome (self-portrait), 2002

The dream is the theatre where the dreamer is at once scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic. ― C.G. Jung

At first glimpse, the stage of the Dark Movements Toy Theatre reveals a twilight scene, with the spectral beast looming large over a borderlands landscape. We appear to be approachng the frightening terrain where the Mari and Clive’s father, as he approached death, once met. Here is the skeletal horse of Welsh mumming traditions, which inhabited Trevor Jenkins’ nightmares, the Mari that went on to haunt his son’s work for over a decade.

Dark Movements Toy Theatre

Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche. ― C.G. Jung

Prior to his father’s death, Clive had lived through the worst of the AIDS epidemic, working in a profession that was greatly affected by the disease. He has said of his decision to walk away from his theatrical career: “It all felt like a great well of grief I wanted to run away from.”  In The Mare’s Tale series, which Clive began in 1998 and continued through to 2002, this well overflowed onto paper and the marks left behind formed an immensely moving portrait of grief, not only for the artist’s father, but for lost friends and colleagues.  Julian Mitchell, the playwright, said of The Mare’s Tale drawings, when they were first exhibited:

The sexy muscled young man, emerging more and more from the sheet as the series goes on, could be one of the dancers Clive directed. But the menacing horse’s death head he carries is a powerful metaphor for AIDS.”

Mari Dancing

Mari Lwyd Dancing, 2000

Given Clive’s history with the Mari, it is understandable that he instinctively approaches the spectral beast with some trepidation. However, like any good horseman, he long ago learned how to intuit the character of his horse, especially one who has a reputation for being so quixotic.  On this occasion, Clive has made the decision not to ride out alone; the American dancer, Jordan Morley, became the artist’s muse at the end of last year, a chivalrous companion for those potentially perilous journeys to the borderlands.

Study of Jordan

Study of Jordan, 2014

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed. ― C.G. Jung

I believe Clive’s choice of a dancer, as his muse, is a milestone in the Mari story.  The anonymous and doomed young dancer/mummer of The Mare’s Tale is no more. Instead, we are in the company of Jordan, the 21st century muse, a gay man in the prime of his life, who brings the artist a sense of new beginnings, whilst also inspiring him to re-examine a significant part of his creative past.  The first paintings in the Dark Movements series show the Muse and the Mari coming together in an act of greening and renewal, heralding an end to winter in the ‘rainy borderland of blue’.  I will explore this twist in the tale in my final Artlog guest post.

The Awakening, 2015

The Quickening, 2015

The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach. ― C.G. Jung






The Tale of The Curious One

Photo: Marcus Mam

Photo: Marcus Mam

I am honoured to be invited by Clive to be a guest contributor to the Artlog, which is my favourite blog. I would like, by way of an introduction, to tell you a little about myself and how I found my way here.

I am a wearer of several hats, which are all linked to an incurable desire to know more about both the conscious and unconscious worlds. My professional career is in marketing, branding, trend forecasting and research, but I am also trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Jungian Psychological Astrology. My fascination with art is centred around the idea that looking at a picture offers me the great pleasure of engaging with the sensibility of another human being, even though many lifetimes may separate us.  As a viewer, I enjoy exploring the space where my imagination meets a work of art, which is when I tell myself a story of whence it came and its meaning to me, in order to best remember what I am seeing.

I created The Curious One at Pinterest to explore my love of British art, with my initial focus being on Modern British Art.  Collecting has been described as the ultimate expression of individual curiosity and, much to my delight, the virtual curating platform that Pinterest offers has given me the opportunity to create my own imaginary gallery, and to share what I gather with others.  At the last count, my Pinterest collection was welcoming between 700,000 – 900,000 visitors every month, which are figures that never cease to thrill and amaze me. My words of greeting to all the curious ones who join me there are borrowed from Oscar Wilde, and spur me on in my personal mission to never cease from wondering, “You are a wonderful creation. You know more than you think you know, just as you know less than you want to know.”

In one of my regular searches for the work of the artists I admire, I first came across Clive’s blog. I instinctively knew I had found a kindred spirit in this compelling artist and storyteller. Being naturally shy, I remained a silent observer at the Artlog for quite some time, whilst becoming increasingly intrigued by the engaging wizard behind the curtain, and the online community he has created here. It soon became apparent to me that Clive is blessed with the gift of extra-perception and an ability to distil magic, myth and memory into both pictures and words.

Then one day, who should appear at my Pinterest page but the Welsh magician himself, Mr Hicks-Jenkins. We started chatting, regularly, and our friendship grew. Now, as I prepare to venture forth with The Curious One (more on that soon!), I am honoured that Clive has agreed to join me as a travelling companion.   As fellow Artloggers will have observed and experienced for themselves, Clive works in a way which is intensely personal, but also supremely collaborative, which draws people in and I am no exception to his magnetic pull.

Our collaboration, which has evolved from an ongoing conversation first started at Pinterest, is intended to be an exploration of some of the different ways artists can connect with their audience online. Not only does Clive’s working style have a powerful impact on his artistic practices, but it also translates into an interesting, authentic voice, which shines through on social media and, in my opinion, he deserves to be heard (and seen) by many more people.

The borderlands of the Mari Lwyd are the first destination on our journey, as I curate a board at Pinterest in the lead up to the Dark Movements exhibition at Aberystwyth Arts Centre this summer. But more on that in the second part of my guest post.


Borderlands IV