Mr Beam and Mr Hicks-Jenkins

So much by way of my collaborations with poets and writers… and theirs with me… happens through the medium of the e-mail. In this way there there have been repeated couplings with my long-time collaborator and word-smithing muse, Marly Youmans, and with the Welsh poet Damian Walford Davies, both of them writers whose published works regularly bear artwork made by me. (And both of them writers who have written published essays about the significance in my practice of image to written word.) Most recently the American poet Jeffery Beam, who I met through Marly… he’d contributed a paean of praise to Marly’s writing on the back-cover of a book for which I’d produced the artwork… have been conjuring a collaboration from the new work for Dark Movements that’s been emerging from my studio. Jeffery has taken images of the maquettes of Jordan Morley, the Dark Movements Toy Theatre and the first completed paintings made for the exhibition, and has produced poems from them that in turn have ignited my imagination and sent me careering in unexpected visual directions in response.

And so the ideas flow between us via the great electronic highways that connect, and the work for a new exhibition coalesces out of words, photographs, conversations, and shared ideas. A regular visitor to the Artlog, Maria from Spain, joins in the conversations in the blog comment boxes, and adds another layer of ideas to what unfolds there. Maria suggests that the tight-fitting lavender gloves worn by the Jordan maquette, together with the play of the puppet’s hands in the images I posted, remind her of the formal language of fans as expressed in a treatise on the subject given to her by her grandmother. Another friend, Jan, joins the debate.

Clive to Jeffery:

Dear Mr Beam

This is an extract of an e-mail between me and a friend. I think our exchange may be of interest you, seeing as you figure so significantly in it. She wrote:

Jan to Clive:

“The latest version of your Jordan maquette is just beautiful, gorgeously, ravishingly beautiful. He (!) must be taking on a life way beyond that you originally imagined for him and the real Jordan must surely be amazed to see himself so represented and transformed –”

Clive to Jan:

Jordan’s responses are insightful. As a performer he knows that those who watch ‘Jordan Morley’ on stage or on video, carry away versions of him that contain only a part of the truth. He understands the processes of transformation. So while he’s enjoying watching my transformations of him, he’s no such fool as to believe they represent the man he knows himself to be. He was taken aback by the erotic aspects of the maquette and the effect it has had on some of those who wrote about it. My friend Maria in Spain left comments at the Artlog about the erotic aspects of those tight, violet gloves, and Jeffery, having read them, started writing the poetry. I began to see the figure in a different way to how I’d intended originally, but that I wanted nevertheless to pursue. Jordan, meanwhile, smiles enigmatically and rises above it all. I think that he’s enjoying it. He has expressed misgivings that anyone meeting him is going to be disappointed, but he knows what’s what, and I think knows how to separate realities from dreams.

Jeffery to Clive:

Good to know that Jordan knows and knows we know that he has become something outside of himself and yet which is also himself. His gift to us has been giving our Imaginations the freedom Blake tells us to embrace, and there we acknowledge and discover him, but also the him in you, the him in me, the you in me, the me in you, the man/men in which we have MELDED.

Jan to Clive:

“My problem now is trying to reconcile the exquisite, be-gloved Jordan and the idea of the ‘swooning’ poetry you’ve mentioned, mainly because ‘swooning’ somehow conjures up Mills and Boon-type pictures of Barbara Cartland with a rictus smile, swathed in acres of pink! Perhaps unsurprisingly the combination isn’t working at all well in my head – and when it does resolve itself the results are such that I can’t imagine that Ms C would be able to find it in herself to approve!”

Clive to Jan:

Ha ha! Well, let’s say that may have been an ill-chosen description by me, though to be frank it was made in jest, partially because I hesitated at that early stage to describe the verse as homoerotic, though clearly it is.

Jeffery to Clive:

Of course we Queer boys know the joke-ness of “swoon” and understood we were speaking of language of laugh and, simultaneously, a language of mystical mythical experience.

Clive to Jan:

Anyone reading Jeffery’s ‘Jordan’ poems… and there are now several, all of them erotically charged… not knowing who the poet was, would find nothing to suggest that they are the words of one man longing for another. They could equally apply to the longings of a woman.

A while back, Maria from Madrid offered an Artlog comment explaining that the play of the Jordan maquette’s gloves in the photographs I’d posted, reminded her of a book, a treatise on the language of fans, gifted to her by her grandmother. Maria, herself now a ‘grandmother’, had recently acquired one of my preparatory studies of naked young men, made many years ago for the Old Stile Press edition of The Sonnets of Richard Barnfield. In an e-mail she described how much she loved the drawing and the sixteenth century poem it accompanied in the book. She was moved by Richard Barnfield’s erotically charged verse, a heartfelt paean to the beauty and allure of a young man. For Maria, the poet’s sentiments spoke both to her, and for her.

I rather like it that three gay men, an artist, a poet and a model/muse, encouraged by a blog-reading grandmother in Spain, can make work that is at once beautiful and erotically charged for both men and women.

Jeffery Beam to Clive:

I am still swimming in glove/fans and wonder if you know of Paul Claudel’s A Hundred Movements for a Fan. It is a work that has inspired me in the past but I have returned to it again, in case there is a Jordan G/love secret therein. The edition I have is actually a British imprint: Translated by American Gay Mystic Andrew Harvey and Iain Watson and published by Quartet Books in 1992.

I’d certainly love to see an English translation of Maria’s grandmother’s book. I wonder if there is one?

Jan to Clive:

“Jeffrey Beam’s poetry sounds intriguing – look forward to encountering it. I so love your multi-disciplinary view of life and art, the dark twists against the child-like (in the best sense, of wonder and fearlessness) innocence.”

Clive to Jan:

In our heads surely all of us are simultaneously many things: child and adult hand in hand, the innocent and experienced journeying together. It’s just that too many forget that, or don’t understand it or express it. But the artists, the poets and the makers… we must express it, if we are to do our jobs.

And here, a brief exchange between me and Jeffery, this time about Maze of Blood.

Clive to Jeffery:

Mr Beam, my long-distance poet/amour/penpal/inspiration, I hope you are well.

Here, the Maze of Blood cover is preoccupying me. I think it likely this will be the only painting I’ll ever get to make of a man who believed his girlfriend to be a cardinal bird, and blew off the top of his head hours before his mother died of tuberculosis because he couldn’t face life without her. Doesn’t bear thinking about too much, though Marly takes even the most unnerving material and stitches it through with the sublime. And here’s me, part way through reinventing her sublime wordsmithing into art for the cover of the novel.

Jeffery to Clive:

Oh that’s a perfect description of what Marly does…”unnerving material and stitches it through with the sublime” I trust she should use that as a blurb.

Clive to Jeffery:

Miss Marly always brings out the unexpected in me.

Jeffery to Clive:

And there you are, as you say, unexpected but perfectly right. Myth and psychology, and psychic tear (read as a rip and a cry).

Clive to Jeffery:

Sending love your way, Mr Beam. I read your Jordan verses and all sorts of heated imaginings roll around in my head. It’s as though you’re standing close behind me, whispering the words into my ear.

Jeffery to Clive:

Well honey, I am whispering… I have been known to do that with soul-brothers over the distance.

new scene for the ‘Dark Movements Toy Theatre’: the Mari Lwyd comes by night

Component Parts:

backdrop, free-standing mid-stage element, ground-row and 2 x wings


Free-standing mid-stage element and ground-row


Concept Sketch



Waterfall at stage right

Rock face at stage left

The toy theatre will be shown at my forthcoming exhibition

Dark Movements

Gallery 1

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

June 6th – July 25th

making a new scene for the Dark Movements Toy Theatre

Below are some sketches of a new scene planned for my ‘Dark Movements’ toy theatre.

A giant skeletal horse strides the night sky, dwarfing the Welsh village crouched beneath the sentinel ruins of castle and viaduct. Rocky cliffs make the wing pieces, a foreground ‘ground-row’ of rocky terrain frames the lower edge of the scene and the village and castle mound are on a separate ground-row beyond it. The Mari Lwyd/horse is on the backdrop.

The second sketch piles the composition a little too high for the proportions of the toy stage.

In a second drawing I’ve placed the horse lower down, to better fit the view of the scene through a proscenium arch. Traditionally ‘toy theatre’ scenes are relatively foursquare and simple in composition, a style that suits the scale of the form. I think that in the final version, I’ll try to split the difference between these two drawings.

Beginning the artwork for the backdrop.

More news on this, soon.

modes of locomotion

Above and below: Mari Lwyd maquette under construction

This is by way of a little demonstration of the ways in which ideas evolve. A little while ago I posted an edited sequence of puppetry done with the Mari Lwyd maquette I made in the form of a skeletal horse for The Mare’s Tale. In the sequence the maquette had been fitted with rods and operated on a slope-board by two puppeteers. In the production we used only flashes of the sequence, far less than you’ll see here. In fact I probably showed too little of it, having erred on the side of less is more. Here it is again, for a recap.

Edited rod-puppet sequence for The Mare’s Tale

A few weeks before filming the rod-puppet horse, I’d made a stop-motion test of the same maquette, followed by some stop-motion tests of the mumming-figure maquettes of the Groom, Judy (or the He/She) and a Foliate Man, the last of which is not to my knowledge part of the Mari Lwyd tradition. (I added him for visual diversity.)

Below: maquettes under construction

I learned a lot from the tests, and although we filmed further stop-motion sequences for the production, I used them only subliminally as I didn’t like the quality nearly as much as the filming done after I’d fitted the maquettes with rods. (I have ideas about experimenting further with stop-motion, using out of focus and a moving background of dust and detritus. I need to dirty the whole thing up a bit.)

The idea of fitting the maquette with rods only came about as I played with the skeletal horse  while trying to find stranger movement potential for it. It’s interesting to compare the two skeletal horse sequences. And by the way, it is the same puppet, even though in the rod-puppet sequence it appears facing the other way. The cameraman is Pete Telfer.

Stop-motion tests for The Mare’s Tale

what the new year brings…

Here at the Artlog I’ve been hinting for a while that plans are afoot for my involvement in a ‘theatre-arts’ based project. Yesterday came the good news that grant funding for the undertaking has been awarded by the Arts Council of Wales, and so it’s time for me to share with you what lies ahead in 2013.

A new music-theatre work has been commissioned by the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra. The artistic director James Slater and I have been discussing the subject matter over the summer months, and now the main collaborators are in place. The creative team is made up of James and myself as producer and designer/director respectively, the composer Mark Bowden and the librettist Damian Walford Davis. A dramaturge has yet to be appointed. The genesis of  the project is unusual, inasmuch that the source material is not literary but visual, consisting of my 2000-2001 series of drawings known collectively as The Mare’s Tale. That’s about as much as I want to say at the moment. Production meetings begin in the new year. Watch this space for regular updates.