Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Clive at The Gregynog Gallery, 1

Pictures 1-2, Clive's toy theatre

2. Toy theatre wolf with Ty Isaf and gardens

3. Clive with his annunciation paintings and Iwan,
white-gloved to protect the art. (Clive wear gloves? Never!)

4. The nearest painting is "The Prophet Fed by a Raven."
Close by is a car from the prior exhibition--Dave Bonta
took a picture when Clive and I hopped in for a spin.
We did not get far...

I don't want to talk about funerals or long college-ferryings or the depredations of hurricane Irene, so I shall do something else entirely. I'm going to post some pictures from the 60th birthday retrospective of Clive Hicks-Jenkins at The Gregynog Galley of The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. The retrospective closed on the 20th of August, so it's time for a backward glance. What I'm going to post is pictures I took well before the opening. I did not think it quite right to share them until the magnificence had ended, packed up and sent to wing around the world. Look carefully and you may pick out the virgins and saints and still life paintings waiting in corners, leaning on walls, sleeping on the floor. Need a reference?  Try Enjoy!

5. The toy theatre on a cart.
In the background: "Green George"
and one of the Mari Lwyd series.

6. "Green George" at left.
"Flight of Swallows Over the Field of Gold" at rear.
Evidence of secret museum laboring at center.
Many of the larger paintings have these simple bespoke
frames, gray and rather unobtrusive.

7. Both those little paintings show Tretower,
where Clive hid himself in a cold chrysalis
between his life in the theatre and his life as a painter. 
The larger one is "Journey's End,"
showing Clive's father's mug in the foreground.
Some years ago I wrote  poem about that image
as a present for Clive, and it is in The Book of Ystwyth:

one of the two books links to the retrospective.
Clive points out that this one is really sideways...
I knew that, but it's how they looked.
As I can't bear to turn it around, just turn
yourself around so the cup points THIS SIDE UP.

8. The Gregynog Gallery.
Peter Wakelin, Clive, and somebody I can't quite see.
Peter was curator, a man who takes infinite pains.

9. Sketchbook with some of the objects in the paintings,
including the "Journey's End" mug.

10. Clive. In the background is a large painting with Ynys y Pandy
showing at upper right. I think it is "Black Horsemen,"
the horse-and-rider figures being African statues.
On each side were other pieces with Ynys y Pandy in the background.
I thought the one at right was "Forestier's Little Cavalryman,"
but now that I peer more closely, I think not...
Should have labeled these in May instead of never!
Update: Clive says it is indeed "Forestier's Little Cavalryman."

11. Clive solo at The Gregynog Gallery.

12. The annunciations. A maquette trapped in a frame at left.
(Let me out to play, Clive!)


  1. Quite wonderful. I think the interstices between works of art and the actual exhibit are most interesting. You have captured them here.

  2. Yes, I felt it was a privilege to see the show grow and the musuem staff and Clive and Peter tinker with arrangements.

  3. This is the sweetest post, and I thank you for it. Good to be reminded of how the exhibition started out as an incoherent stack of works lying around in a big space I feared would never be sufficiently filled. I remember you padding around snapping away quietly. Was this your first day in Wales? I think it must have been. You were really thrown in the deep end!

  4. sooo lucky :))
    great photos--good idea, too, so we can get to feel like we were there for the whole thing. i am busy pretending :) thank you!

  5. Yes, I think it was! Deep end: the only way to swim...

  6. Zoe,

    Yes, I am well aware that I was very lucky! And the whole behind-scenes work was interesting...

  7. It must be daunting to put together an exhibit. I wonder if it's at all like organizing a collection of poems. That was pretty tough for me. Too familiar with the individual poems to see them properly as part of something. Maybe it's the same with paintings and other things.

  8. It is different in a major venue like this, I am sure. Because you're not tinkering alone.

    There's the artist: opinionated! There's the curator: opinionated! There's the director of The National Library and The Gregynog Gallery and his whole staff, all working to make it as perfect as possible--and coming up with helpful comments and solutions.

    The show was wonderfully hung, with a special room built for the Mari Lwyd pictures and special cases for maquettes, and a room especially for the artist's books from Old Stile Press and art related to them.

  9. A retrospective of the retrospective!

  10. Mmm, yes. Starting at the beginning.

  11. Marly, this is wonderful! Great to see the stage directions and genesis of the show. Hung so well that somehow you imagine the exhibition just emerged from the walls like mushrooms on a field on a mist-damp morning. But, as with all things that appear effortless, vast lakes of patient thought and consideration went into every stage to create that natural perfection.

  12. Up at 2:OO am, am enjoying this wander in through an installation in progress in a far away gallery, seeing it through your eyes - what an awasome experience for you.

  13. Paul,

    No doubt we both love that sense of effortless ease that takes so much work (although sometimes things spring outward and feel effortless, I am sure that is never true of a show!)

  14. Glad you were up, marja-leena!

    It was satisfying to be there early and see the show, while never quite chaotic, emerge and be tweaked and refined. It was a little, as Robbi suggested, like arranging a book of poems, although one certainly does not need a gang of people in gloves to dither and reflect and so on.

    Definitely a special time in my life, for which I owe many thanks to Clive and Peter for putting up with me for so long!

  15. There was definitely no 'putting up with' as far as your visit was concerned. You were the perfect guest, immediately at ease and a delight to be around. We missed you after you'd gone. I liked coming upon you unexpectedly on the rose terrace, sipping tea and getting on with your writing. You can come again any time!

  16. Dangerous remark, Clive! Thanks.

    I didn't do a lot of writing there--I didn't do a lot of anything that could be construed as work. Three or four new poems, a reading, a bit of dishwashing... hardly lifted a finger. So it was a pleasant contrast to my daily life, full of deadlines and house- and mama-work and little emergencies of all sorts.

    And so exciting to talk with your friends and see the show. I sigh with pleasure, just thinking of those days.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.