Saturday August 1st was the last day of the William Brown Exhibition at Studio 18, Oxford Street, Pontycymer. The invitation was from Carys, William’s widow, who was brought up in the village, for afternoon tea/coffee and Welsh cakes, it was so good to see William’s work hanging in Kevin Sinnott’s new Gallery. On sale was the book by Carys and David Greenslade of tributes from fellow artists and writers from Wales and abroad, particularly the Czech Republic, where I went with the group who met at the Westbourne Hotel in Swansea, every Tuesday. William was a Scots, Canadian, Welshman and friend and an irreplaceable member of our band, along with Tony Goble, Gareth Davies, and Malcolm Parr, who have also recently died, we only meet at Christmas now.
I photographed William many times, in his studio in the old church hall in Llangynwyd, at Exhibitions which he was always planning, pubs and unforgettable parties at their home and on one occasion at our house, where all bearded men had to wear pegs. More pictures will appear when I can get into my archive at Swansea University.
Williams work drew from the iconography of Wales as well as Canada such as The Mari Lywd, and his own The Venus of Blaengwynfi and ‘The Bear ’in a surreal narrative which flowed like the poetry of his friends, particularly the poet David Greenslade who together with William published many memorable publications like ‘March’, ‘The Dark Fairground’, and ‘Old Emulsion Customs’. William was a compulsive writer and decorator of envelopes, when a package from him dropped on the doormat full of items of interest, all with his unique rubber stamps, what joy!
From Newcastle Hill, in Bridgend where William lived to Gutershloh in Westfalia, for an international art symposium for young people, and Berguette where two members of the Canadian expeditionary Force were buried after World War2. Williams work takes on a serious and poignant mood. His passing affected all that new him and in the obituary in the Guardian David Moore said ‘’ Brown’s work displayed a remarkable playfulness and a Surreal humour ’’, in the Independent Laura Gascoigne wrote, ‘’The painter and printmaker William Brown triumphantly achieved Picasso’s ambition of drawing like a child’’, ‘’ He learnt Welsh and joined the Welsh Group’’. William was buried in the graveyard of StTeilo’s Church in Merthyr Mawr with a headstone of a bear carved by Ieuan Rees.
Bernard Mitchell 2020
Denis curry was born on the last day of the First World War and last November 11th celebrated his 101st birthday, during the Second World War he joined the Royal Engineers, and fought in North Africa and Monte Cassino. He is the only artist in Wales and the U.K. whose prolific artistic pursuit has centred on flight with a profound knowledge of natures engineering structures with a poetic vision. An exceptional draughtsman, painter and sculptor in bronze and stone he studied sculpture at TheSlade, Henry Moore was one of his tutors, he won many prizes for drawing and sculpture including a 4th Post Graduate year. His work is in many collections and has been exhibited in numerous galleries including, The Royal Academy, London , MOMA Wales, RCA, RWA, etc. He lives in rural Pembrokeshire in the foothills of Mynydd Preseli.
Elizabeth Haines went to Brighton College of Art and moved to Wales in 1968 where she graduated with a Phd at University of Wales, Lampeter, in 2001. She lives in the foothills of Mynydd Preseli near Clunderwen in Pembrokeshire. Her work has evolved over the years into a style that preoccupies the precarious hinterland between topography and abstraction often described obliquely as the landscape of France as well as Wales with a surreal and dreamlike quality.
‘Your no stranger here,’ I was told the very day that I arrived. A day later I was addressed as Joe and now I am nick-named Joe- bach.’’ These are Josef’s own words taken from his diary.
The people of Ystradgynlais had given this Polish Refugee Artist a home and a welcome that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He came for two weeks and stayed for eleven years, and produced in this time his iconic, bold and sculptural images of the miner.
Josef was born in 1911 and attended the Warsaw School of Art and Decoration, after eighteen months he left to work as a graphic artist. After one exhibition in Warsaw, he left to escape the Nazi Pogram which claimed the rest of his family in 1938 for Brussels, France and Glasgow in 1940. Persuaded by a friend he arrived in Ystradgynlais in 1944.
After gifting the Photographs of the friends of Dylan Thomas to the National Library and them purchasing the early portraits of Artists, I realised that Paul Joiner of the Art Department, had been to London to meet Josef and acquire for the Library a significant number of drawings of Welsh interest. Shortly after I visited and photographed Josef at his home in Edith Grove, Chelsea which he shared with his wife Nini a respected Psychotherapist who’s practice was in the adjoining house. They lived in a rather nice three storey house, designed for an artist, for if I remember it was here in Edith Grove where Ceri Richards lived.
Through the front door to the back of the house, to a room with space for a day bed, steep stairs with rope banisters like the set of HMS Pinafore leading to his studio. At the bottom a trimphone, telephone directories, books and diaries. I sat Josef here and took the first photograph. It was a large and well lit studio, on the right a small kitchen with Belson sink and kettle, and in front of me a large easel with an iconic painting of a working man almost, robotic back- lit against what must be the setting sun. You might say a scene from Ystradgynlais. Josef stood stoically in white artists coat, shirt and shoes. Every space of the wall was covered with African tribal art, masks and carved heads. The other main thing in the studio was a large, brown leather wing-backed armchair, We had been photographing for some time, so Josef, took a rest, and as I was setting up the camera I noticed his eyes close, the great artists was asleep.
For me this was the picture, so content, and taken in black and white. We had coffee upstairs in the kitchen, surrounded still by his collection of tribal art, which is reflected in his own work.
The last picture of the day.
Kyffin Williams had his retrospective Exhibition at the at the National Library, he had mentioned that the Gregynog Gallery could do with a lick of paint, My exhibition of a hundred portraits of artists was to follow, your lucky he said,’’ you will have a nice newly painted gallery for your exhibition’’. The photograph of a sleeping Josef Herman was not going to be hung on the walls.
I had written an article for Planet, ‘ Artists in the Morning, Poets in the Afternoon’ ( Planet 128 Apri/May 1998) with the photograph of Josef sleeping across two page, so I opened the magazine and put it in a glass case that was in the centre of the gallery, and nothing was said.
After his death Josef aged 89 in 2000, he left his library to the National Library and I was invited to the Library for lunch with Nini Herman and David their son.
In 2007 an exhibition and auction was held at the Ystradgynlais Miners Welfare Hall to raise funds for the Josef Herman Educational Foundation for School children of the area to study art. I exhibited a selection of the photographs I had taken of Josef. Nini bought three, one for herself and one each for her children for Christmas, these are the best photographs that have been taken of him, she said.
Bernard Mitchell 2020.
Osi Rhys Osmond – Artist – Writer – 1942-2015.
My first encounter with Osi Rhys Osmond was at The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, the Art Historian Paul Joyner who had been involved in the Libraries acquisition of a major collection of Josef Herman’s drawings, was addressing a seminar on the Polish refugee artist who had settled in Ystradgynlais in the Swansea valley, after escaping from the German pogrom. Osi stood up at the end of the session and produced the most provocative and challenging statement, the audience sat in stunned silence and I think the speaker wished he could melt away. At the lunch break, I asked Osi if I could visit him, I was curious, who was this man? What makes him speak with such passion.
I met Osi at his home in Llansteffan. Opposite his house was The Pound, a round building in the village centre, where he had his studio, I photographed him there and spent the rest of the day talking, I could have spent two. I can only say that never had I heard a man speak with such passion and pride in the people and landscape and cultural heritage of our country.
Osi Rhys Osmond, Donald Malcolm Osmond (He was named Osi by his friends at art school) was born in Bristol in 1942 and moved when he was three with his family to the mining village of Wattsville in the Sirhowy Valley both his father and grandfather were miners, his father was also a Baptist lay-preacher. From an early age he had an interest in drawing, at the local grammar school he had already held exhibitions. In 1959 like many well known valley artists he went on the train to the Newport school of Art under Thomas Rathmell, with a further year in Cardiff College of Art. After college he stayed in Newport for about five years before travelling west to take the post of Head of Art at Narberth Secondary School in Pembrokeshire, In 1988 he went to Carmarthen College of Art, teaching on the Foundation course, and Swansea School of Art in 1996 till 2012.
Osi was a man of conviction, a proud and loyal Welshman who once seen is never forgotten. His role in life was to promote the Art and Culture of Wales, with his powerful and often provocative style his statements could put the fear of a Welsh Baptist preacher or the Anglican minister like R.S. Thomas through his teaching, artwork and writing.
It was at this period around 1999 that I was photographing Welsh Artists and Writers for Planet Magazine, Shelagh Hourahane, writer, artist and Art Historian was writing a profile of Osi Rhys Osmond.( Planet 136. Aug/Sept 1999) I decided to revisit Osi and spent a long time photographing him in nearly every room in the house, which was a series of unique work and living spaces created by his wife Hilary and himself.
At the same time Osi was also writing for Planet Magazine, and in the following edition of Planet (Planet 137. Oct/Nov 1999) he wrote the most moving and amazing article ‘ Cultural Alzheimer’s’, Osi Rhys Osmond on memory and society in post-industrial Wales. The story of his Father’s onset of Alzheimer’s disease and returning home to the changing village of his childhood. So moving and powerful, that I had to write and tell him my thoughts.
He marched for the Miners Strike, joined CND, and stood as a socialist, to be a Plaid Cymru County Councilor and was elected to the Gorsedd y Beirdd in 2006, exhibited worldwide, wrote and published and broadcast the culture of Wales with enthusiastic pride.
My last entry on my Archive, was photographs of the Josef Herman Exhibition and Auction at Ystradgynlais Welfare Hall of work donated by Josef’s widow Nini, to raise funds for the Josef Herman Education Foundation for school children in 2007. Osi was in the Chair and held the gavel.
Themes that echo Osi’s concern for the future of Wales and mankind. in the works that I have picked to illustrate this article wattville and Cultural Alzeimers, pacifism and war, Palastine and Sudan ,Manafon. The R.S. Thomas Series and Llansteffan, Operation Cast Lead, and Helicopter are a small selection from ‘Encounters with Osi, with the kind permission of Hilary Rhys Osmond.
Bernard Mitchell 2020.
A not to be missed book, a tribute from his friends and fellow Welshmen. Encounters With Osi, The H’mm Foundation, 2015.
A strange choice I thought, but top of Will Roberts list of artists was John Petts better known as a Wood Engraver and Stained Glass Artist, ‘’go and photograph him now!’’ Will said.
I went to Abergavenny where John Petts was living in The Old Workhouse, an ideal building for a Stained Glass and Wood engraving Studio with his third wife Anna Brignell, the upper floor converted into modern living accommodation. If any artist needs a biography John Petts is one, he was at the heart of the new wave of contemporary 20th Century Welsh Art (1930-1901). This was an important piece of information, and Will knew it. Before twelve months had passed John Petts was dead.
John Petts was born in Hornsey in 1914, he studied for one year, drawing at the Hornsey College of Art, and three years under the Engraver Norman James from here he went to the Royal Academy Schools, where he met his first wife Brenda Chamberlain and was married in 1935.
They decided not to stay in London but follow their dream of a idyllic and romantic life in a cottage at Llanllechid, North Wales. Life, however was not easy and to survive John engraved cards which were hand coloured by Brenda, a rare item today. After a few years the relationship ended, and Brenda moved to Bardsey Island, for fifteen years, then Hydra, Greece before returning to live in Bangor, where she died of an overdose of barbiturates in 1971. The coroners verdict accidental death.
John and Brenda were divorced in 1947, and in 1948. John moved to Llanystumdwy to the home of Lloyd George to restart the Caseg Press with Jonah Jones also 1948 he married Kusha, christened Margery Miller an artist and writer studying at Reading University. John then worked for the Welsh Arts Council in Cardiff before being appointed lecturer in Design and Crafts including stained glass at Carmarthen Art College. Self taught, he had no experience of stained glass and travelled to Swansea where he took advice from Howard Martin at Celtic glass, whose work mainly involved traditional ecclesiastical windows, his first commission was for the Llandaff Diocese. Much to the surprise of Celtic glass.
John and Kusha had moved to Llansteffan, where he set up a stained glass studio with Kusha as workshop assistant while still painting. They divorced in 1984 and John married Anna Brignell in 1985 and moved to the Workhouse in Abergavenny where he passed away in 1991. John Petts was one of the three leading Wood Engravers of The British School along with Eric Gill and Gertrude Hermes.
Bernard Mitchell 2020.
My first words to Peter Prendergast were ‘’Your from Mutton Tump’’ my wife in her childhood lived with her mother at the Windsor Hotel in High Street Abertridwr, only a local would know it was called that. Peters’ father an Irish Catholic had moved from County Wexford to work in the mines of the Aber Valley, he married a Welsh girl and settled in Abertridwr, where Peter and his twin brother were born. Being a catholic and Irish was no way to be a child in South Wales, I can remember my own days at school when the Catholic boys had to stand in the washrooms during assembly.
Unlike his brother Peter failed his eleven plus, and it was only his obsession with drawing and the help of Cwm Aber Secondary School’s outstanding art teacher Gomer Lewis, who encouraged and introduced him to the impressionists and modernist artists. His ‘Self-Portrait at Twelve’ 1958 started a life long interest in figurative and self portraits, and as did ‘ Back of High Street, Abertridwr’ 1960 begin a carer of expressionist landscape painting. Head Boy, passing all of his leaving exams, he won a Glamorgan County Scholarship of £300 to attend the foundation course at Cardiff College of Art run by Joan Baker and in the second year with the help of Lesley Moore and his teacher Dick Whall and a packing case of finished paintings applied to ‘The Slade’ in London, not an easy task in 1960, where Frank Auerbach was his painting tutor.
In 1967 the last year at the Slade Peter met and Married his wife Lesley. He left The Slade to complete a two years Masters Degree at Reading University, resisting the advice of Terry Frost his teacher at Reading University, Peter decided to return to his home land. Not to the industrial valleys of South Wales but to the rugged mountains and slate quarries of Snowdonia, which he had hitchhiked through as a young man. They managed to buy a small stone cottage on a mountain side near the village and slate quarry of Bethesda.
With a young family, several moves and little money, they eventually bought a larger stone longhouse their final home. It was here that I first photographed Peter, his easel propped against a stone wall in the windswept garden overlooking a patchwork of fields, walls, isolated cottages, and the houses, chapels and steepled church of the village of Deiniolen and onwards to the Menai Straits and Anglesey. As R.S. Thomas wrote in the poem ‘Welsh Landscape’.
‘ the thick ambush of shadows,
Hushed by the field’s corner
He had met his fellow landscape artist Sir Kyffin Williams, they had their own opinions on artistic style, particularly Kyffin, but they both had different ways of painting the landscape, palette knife or paint brush. Peter said that one day Kyffin arrived in his car with canvases and oil paints, gave them to Peter and drove off saying ‘’I’m sure you can make use of these’’, and into his car and he was gone.That is how I remember Kyffin, he was his own man and generous to a fault.
The last time that I travelled to Deiniolen, was completely different, Peter had built a studio in a stone outbuilding, on the terraces below the front of the cottage, a wooden door and small window over looking the view across the valley. Inside carefully positioned was a mirror into which Peter could see and paint himself and the landscape beyond and that is the picture. ‘Self- Portrait and Landscape’ 2000, Mixed Media.
….Those who crowd
A small window dirty it
With their breathing, though sublime
And inexhaustible the view
I stayed overnight with Peter and Lesley, the dog asleep in his basket next to the kitchen range, Peter sat around the table with matching red teapot and chairs and on the right the Welsh Dresser. In the morning we drove to the top of Anglesey, in a howling gale and torrential rain Peter dragged a trolley, with workmate, board, oil paints, brushes etc across the sodden heath to the cliff tops above Twr Elin, Rock Pool. The water crashed against the defiant ravine, boiling and churning as an undeterred artist fought against the elements. Later these working studies would be used to make large scale paintings in the studio. No Monet mill pond this but a true – Prendergast expressionist seascape. The Power of Peters landscapes from the Slate Quarry, Bethesda to West 53rd Street, New York is proof of his dogged determination through all adversity.
On our way back to Deiniolin as I had planned we stopped to visit Kyffin, they talked for an hour or so, before saying our last farewell, I took the photograph of the two great Welsh landscape painters.
Bernard Mitchell 2020.
Following on from my conversations with Kyffin Williams I visited Will Roberts for the first time in 1990. Will had been working with his partner Wilfred Kaltenbach in their grandfather clock and jewellery repair shop in Angel St, Neath. Will met Josef Herman outside the local cinema and became a friend and pupil the Polish artist who lived above the Penybont Inn in Ystradgynlais,.
It was Josef, Will said, ‘You are far too good an artist, give up mending clocks and just paint.’
Kyffin Williams wrote in Will Roberts book ‘Drawings’ published by the National Library of Wales on his the gift to the people of Wales of 600 drawings, sketch books and copies of his work in 2001 after his death in 2000 about how Will had been accused of painting in the style of Josef Herman.
‘The work of Will Roberts is often compared unfavourably with that of his friend Josef Herman, but this has always been a facile and insensitive appraisal, for even if there are technical similarities, the mood and message of the two artists are entirely different. Whereas Josef Herman dedicated himself to the painting of mankind in a powerful manner that owes much to the influence of Constant Permeke, the work of Will Roberts is more specific and shows the individuality of human beings’.
Tony Curtis, professor of Poetry and writer on the Arts in Wales, wrote two books of interviews with artists, ‘Welsh Painters Talking’ and ‘Welsh Artists Talking’ for each book I travelled separately to photograph the artists. The books were launched at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff with an exhibition of the Portraits and work of the artists, in the first volume was the interview with Will. I decided to ask each of the artists to sign my book underneath their portrait, the only artist missing on the evening was Will. So I telephoned him to ask if I could call in for the signature. Reluctantly his wife said that they were going to be celebrating their golden wedding with a family party at their daughters house in Cardiff. Undeterred I travelled from Oswestry where we lived to Cardiff, only to glad to be away from the gathering, Will said, ‘Come in the backroom, I’ll sign your book.’ I took the family golden wedding picture, Will, Phyllis and daughter Sian. In return I received in the post a chalk drawing of Miners cottages in Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley
I photographed Will again 1998, back home in Billton Road, he had been in hospital after having had a stroke, while there he drew the nurses and back at home was drawing self portraits repeating them over and over, may be an attempt to get back to painting fitness.
Sian wrote in the book of Drawings, some lovely words that echoed my memories of Will.
Will Roberts – quiet, unassuming, a true gentleman- was nonetheless, a man of great Charisma, possessing that extraordinary ability that some people have for making the individual feel completely at ease in his company and that they were at once important and special to him.
John Selway was born in Askern in Yorkshire in 1938, and moved to his mothers family home in Ash Tree Terrace, in Six Bells near Abertillery where his grandmother had a small holding and John attended the local Junior school, near the house, where he was already drawing on slates or in his exercise book. During the Summer months he spent time with his grandmother and step grandfather on their farm on the Herefordshire/Welsh Border.
I photographed John in the studio at his home in Abertillery, which he had built himself out of various pieces of wood, and board, well lit and with a large window over looking the Ebbw Bach valley, the river Tyleri and the wooded hillside. Heated by a wood burning stove it was big enough to take six-foot canvas and had all the comforts of home.
John was one of the talented valley artists who traveled by bus and train to art college, as did Burton, Sinnott and Zobole. In his case it was Newport College of Art, and on to the Royal College of Art in London, with a break for National Service and returning to Newport College of Art to become a Senior Lecturer for the next twenty five years. At the RCA a fellow student, was David Hockney and Mark Rothko was a tutor, but John returned to his home town, Abertillery. Although he left behind the hi-life and International fame, he travelled the world, but always returned to his roots in the valleys.
We sat and talked in his modest home about Dylan Thomas and the Poem that he was working on at the time ‘Fernhill’ before I left he let me have a fine pen drawing with a delicate red water colour wash, a page of his sketch book. The working drawing had a naked girl standing and a boy sitting in a tin bath, chickens being killed and plucked, boxes of eggs and oil lamps. This was not the Fern Hill of Dylan’s poem, but John’s own memory of childhood at Ash Tree Terrace, Six Bells, up the valley from Abertillery or on his maternal grand mothers farm in the Golden Valley on the Herefordshire/Wales border which he visited in the Summer.
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry ,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the Heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
The poem had become a surreal memory of his childhood , a dream like fantasy.
John had drawn the circus at school, but later as an adult his love of the circus and a Welsh Arts Council grant took him to Spain to paint the traveling circus.
He visited Auschwitz, and here his sensual dreams turn into a nightmare in his series of paintings of the Holocaust and return again in the series of fifteen paintings, ‘ The Stations of the Cross’ in St Michael’s the Archangel, Abertillery, It is not just the story of the journey to the crucifixion but one that takes the journey from the German pogrom to the current events in the middle east and America.
Bernard Mitchell 2020
The H’mm Foundation in collaboration with Three Imposters published
Vigilant Imagination – Encounters with John Selway – Written by Jon Gower
Kevin Sinnott’s father like Peter Prendergast’s had moved to the South Wales valleys from Co. Wexford, Ireland, and married a local girl. Kevin was born in 1947, the sixteenth child, and by the time he had reached St.Robert’s RC Elementary School, Aberkenfig, was already drawing the clouds through the classroom window. Through secondary school he studied books on art borrowed from the local library and one day he caught the coach to Cardiff and discovered three Cezanne paintings in the National Museum. ‘’The thrill of this discovery made him realise that the paintings were not only about the birth of Modernism, but that the world began on his door- step’’.
In 1967, he arrived at Cardiff College of Art on the one year Foundation Course, he then went to the Cheltenham Art School (Gloucestershire College of Art and Design) for a three years degree. In 1971 before leaving he married Susan a girl from back home having won a Post Graduate place at the Royal College of Art in London, after which he taught part time at StMartin’s and Canterbury College of Art.
At this time, his career as an artist started to take off, Work was accepted for The John Moore’s competition at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, and exhibitions in Leeds, Birmingham and the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, led to his first five year contact in 1982 with Blond Fine Art, in Sackville Street. By 1985 things had began to cool and a further exhibition for 1986 was in the balance, ‘’So with a few improvisations in a carrier bag’’, he headed for Cork Street and the Bernard Jacobson Gallery having his first Cork Street Exhibition in January 1986 and on St.Patrick’s Day his first exhibition on 57th Street, New York. In 1991 With the advent of the recession, he changed gallery to London Fields Gallery, Flowers East, after having two exhibitions, and the Sale of their house, ‘’with three children and four cats we headed out of London to a rented house in the village of Llety Brongu near Maesteg in the ‘Old Parish of Llangynwyd.’
Walking over the hills from the Llynfi to the Garw Valleys, and two years after leaving London they had moved into two caravans next to an old abandoned Church of England in Wales church, in the village of Pont-y-Rhyl in the Garw Valley. By 1996 a full restoration had taken place with the help of Susan’s brother and father, with a full length first floor housing an atrium gallery and thirty foot studio space behind, Susan had took on the task of landscaping the hillside, their home was named Ty’r Santes Fair, StMary’s House.
It was at St.Mary’s that I photographed Kevin for the first time, it was one of those typical valley days, with mist and heavy rain which makes the slate roofs Shine. A couple of outside pictures but the main picture was upstairs in the magnificent studio, Where he was working on two large canvases, one with a dog, feet in the air being wheel- barrowed through a woods. At this time it was for me a seminal experience when all these elements that had been evolving in his work had come together in the painting, ‘Running Away with the Hairdresser’, now in the National Museum. A drive up the Llynfi Valley to Caerau, gave him that unforgettable backdrop, the movement of the young couple so intent on escaping to the hills and a title that askes so many questions, brilliant! Kevin Sinnott had come home, he had found his hiraeth amongst people who would love and understand his work. These often narrative paintings were about desire, passion and the simple feeling of love and the desire of belonging. Kevin continues to use the Flowers Gallery in London and New York and the Martin Tinney Gallery in Wales (Cardiff.)
Kevin and Susan had four children but sadly Susan passed away in December 2017.
Studio 18, Oxford Street, Pontycymer, was Kevin Sinnott,s next ambitious project for here at the top of a South Wales mining Valley, he built a Galley that is as good as any in Cork Street, London. A completely gutted shop open to first flour height it can accommodate the largest of works, with a gallery around the first floor, for smaller works. Studio 18 opened in 2016, with an exhibition titled Historic Paintings, and around the upper gallery to my surprise was an exhibition of black and white portraits of Welsh Artists by myself. I recently visited Studio 18 again on the 1st of August for the last day of an exhibition by William Brown lovely large cavasses of the valley and all the usual William Brown pictures that we all know. The exhibition was put on by William’s widow Carys, who had been brought up in Pontycymer. Also hung the full height of the main area was the largest Kevin Sinnott I had ever seen.
Bernard Mitchell 2020
Sir Kyffin Williams
Kyffin Williams or how he became Sir Kyffin, was a friend and supporter of my idea to photograph the Artists and Writers of Wales, what has become now the Welsh Arts Archive. On our first meeting at his cottage at Pwllanogl near Llanfair P.G. he gave me a list of who I should see and photograph an idea that I still use today. As I have said before Will Roberts of Neath was the Best Painter in South Wales! Outside and around the back of the cottage was a brick shed, his studio, no picture on the easel, he told me the story of when his best friend Ivor Roberts Jones visited the studio, he would look at the work in progress on the easel and say ‘what is that’? Rummage through the stacked canvasses, pick one out and say, now that’s what you should be doing. Only Ivor could get away with that.
Opposite the studio was a small harbour with a building that what was once where school slates were made, hence the beach in front of the house made of shards of slate.
In the house, his writing desk had a bust of himself sent recently by Ivor Roberts Jones’s widow. It is said that Kyffin may have had a hand in Ivor getting the commission of Winston Churchills statue out side the Houses of Parliament, being President of the Royal Academy at the time.
It amused me that the illuminated Certificate hung in a golden frame in the loo.
He was such a generous man, gave me prints, and once showing me a Gregynog Press book of Gertrude Hermes wood engraving with six slipped in prints, said ‘pick one’ but that will spoil your set,’ take it’ He said!
We exchanged Christmas cards and Kyffin often wrote in them, once having been asked by R.S. Thomas’s second wife to paint his portrait, something R.S. was never keen to do, but could not turn Kyffin or his wife down.’ How shall I do it’ Kyffin wrote, my answer was ‘Draw him quickly’, He invited me to photograph some paintings, I knew that was not true, as he would not ask me to do that. So on arrival he put three pencil drawings on the floor, two with a colour wash and one just a plain pencil head, and that is what hung at his retrospective at the National Library in Aberystwyth.
‘Have you done an oil’ . Yes in the studio still on the easel, was a wispy white haired R.S. painted with a pallet knife with battle ship grey hair. What could I say? ‘Has his wife seen it’?, Yes was his reply ‘she couldn’t stop laughing’ There are so many stories, I followed him, to the National Library, The Royal Cambrian Academy, and to his opening at the Albany Gallery timed for 7pm, and a queue. Martin Tinney had planned Peter Prendergast’s opening at 6.30pm. So there first and by the time that I got to the Albany all the pictures were sold except for one very large landscape in oil.
I stayed with Peter Prendergast over night, we had been taking photographs on the windswept cliff tops in driving wind. I told Peter that I was going to visit Kyffin in the morning, Kyffin was not a well man, and I knew that this was the last time we would meet, Peter said, ‘Can I come? I think that they had been having a difference over artistic style, but I took their photograph together, the two Great Welsh Landscape painters. As we drove off up the unmade lane I looked in the mirror and there was Kyffin two arms in the air waving his last goodbye. The picture that I could not take! It was not long before I met Peter again at his exhibition at the Ceri Richards Gallery in Swansea before he to passed away.
So many stories, so many great artists, so many true friends, that make me feel that what I am doing is so important.
Geoff Yeomans (Geoff the Rust)
Geoff Yeomans was born in Birkenhead in 1934, studied at the Laird School of Art, and teacher training in Liverpool, he spent many years teaching ending up before retiring as head of Fine Nuneaton College of Art. He is well known for his beautifully painted pictures of rusting hulks of boats near his home in Pembrokeshire. He is photographed here at his exhibition at MOMA Wales, Machynlleth, with one of his rust paintings behind him. ‘Geoff the Rust’ was the title of the exhibition of his work held at the Oriel Q Gallery in Narberth, Pembs.