The Birds

A comment by Anita Mills on yesterday’s post was a reminder that over the years, birds have featured significantly in my work. (Anita calls it a ‘pantheon’!) For the fun of it I made a compilation of them. Most shown here are details from larger paintings, though there are few complete works included, particularly where birds are the subjects of them or feature in their titles. Some of the images are of paintings-in-process, hence the areas of red-oxide under-paint.


Swallows (Detail from Flight of Swallows Over the Field of Gold)




(Detail from Tender Blackbird)

Goldfinches (Detail from The Virgin of the Goldfinches)

Heron (Detail from The Congregation of Birds ‘in process’)

Canada Goose (Detail from The Congregation of Birds ‘in process’)

Chaffinch (Detail from The Congregation of Birds ‘in process’)

Doves and Ducks (Detail from My Dream Farm)

I hadn’t really given much thought to this. The above are just a few of the images, but I could fill the Artlog for a month with ‘avians’ in my paintings, in drawings and the images I’ve made for books. Then there are those produced in ceramic when I worked in Pip Koppel’s pottery studio, cockerel figurines and a salt-kit in the form of an owl. Even the block for my book-plate is cut with the image of a bird. Clearly there’s a theme going on.

revisiting Kevin and the Blackbird

Study for Saint Kevin, 11/04/14

No exhibition of my narrative paintings would be complete without an example of Saint Kevin and his blackbird. Starting today on the easel, a new Kevin composition, with the saint standing facing the viewer, his left hand raised with the nest cradled in it. I’ve loved the subject matter ever since having been pointed by my friend Sigrid Muller toward Seamus Heaney’s beautiful poem.

Studies for Saint Kevin, 11/04/14

Since then I’ve painted Kevin many times and in many ways, from a boyish saint gazing with infinite love at flower-wreathed bird, one hand tenderly cupping a nest of unhatched eggs, to a an older, weary man, his skin stigmatised and turned foliate with the imprint of the branches and leaves he mimicked for the good of the long-since-flown bird and her brood, clutching her empty nest to his heart.

Study for Saint Kevin, 2009

Study for Saint Kevin, 2010

Study for Saint Kevin, 2011

Today I’m starting over, and the saint has changed yet again. I’m like a director casting the same play over and over, and finding that every actor brings entirely different insights to the role.

Studies for Saint Kevin, 11/04/14

Telling Tales

Telling Tales: new narrative works by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Oriel Tegfryn
Menai Bridge
Opening May 10th 2014

Clive Hicks-Jenkins explores a narrative tradition of painting, particularly in relation to the Welsh mumming custom of the Mari Lwyd, and in his examinations of stories with miraculous events at their hearts. His Mari Lwyd drawing, Stumbles and Cannot Rise, is in the National Museum of Wales, his re-imagining of the annunciation, The Virgin of the Goldfinches, hangs permanently in the Saint Dyfrig Chapel of Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, and his painting, Christ Writes in the Dust, was commissioned for the Methodist Collection of Twentieth Century Art, held at Oxford Brookes University. For a decade he’s regularly produced works on the legendary themes of the blind Breton monk, Hervé, who had a wolf for a companion, and the Irish hermit, Kevin. Kevin held a nest in his outstretched hand while a blackbird laid and incubated her eggs in it, hatched them and reared her young until fledged, a legend recounted by Seamus Heaney in a poem the artist has long referenced in his paintings on the subject.

For Telling Tales: Clive Hicks-Jenkins at Oriel Tegfryn, the artist has made new works of Hervé and Kevin, and has been revisiting his Mari Lwyd theme. In 2012 Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra commissioned composer Mark Bowden and Aberystwyth-born poet Damian Walford Davies, to make a chamber-work with a spoken libretto, taking inspiration from the artist’s 2001 series of large black and white Mari Lwyd drawings known collectively as The Mare’s Tale. Last year Clive Hicks-Jenkins designed and directed the first Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra performance of The Mare’s Tale, and at Oriel Tegfryn will be showing paintings he’s subsequently produced, inspired by its music and libretto.
The artist’s most recent series is inspired by Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, in which Joseph the soldier unwittingly makes a pact he’ll come to regret. Last year Clive Hicks-Jenkins was commissioned to make an animated-film to accompany a performance of The Soldier’s Tale at the Hay Festival, and his new paintings further exploring the story are at the heart of the Oriel Tegfryn exhibition.
See some of the work that will be in the exhibition, HERE