Figure

The human figure has featured in my work as an artist for a long time.

It has taken the form of portraits, self-portraits, figures based on self-portraits, group portraits, nudes and imagined figures.

'Bryn', acrylic over plaster, 31.5 x 17 x 23.5 cm (1985)
‘Bryn’, acrylic over plaster, 31.5 x 17 x 23.5 cm (1985)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 1980s, I produced portraits mainly of friends, ranging from my first oil painting – of Jenny (produced in Florence in 1981) – to a plaster bust of the life model Bryn and two acrylic paintings on board of Neil and Julia (all three of which were produced in Aberystwyth in 1985-86) and, finally, a set of oils of four young women artists in Tuscany (1989-90), most notably Sara Fanelli.

'Women Artists in Tuscany series: Sara Fanelli' oil on lined board, 35 x 45 cm (1990)
‘Women Artists in Tuscany series: Sara Fanelli’ oil on lined board, 35 x 45 cm (1990)

 

In the early 1990s, I began to produce portraits of significant Welsh figures: a time-inspired triple portrait in mixed media of Ingrid Surgenor (piano accompanist for Cardiff Singer of the World);

'Ingrid Surgenor: Piano Accompanist' conte pastel and watercolour on paper, 75 x 110 cm (1991)
‘Ingrid Surgenor: Piano Accompanist’ conte pastel and watercolour on paper, 75 x 110 cm (1991)

 

a life-size, full length oil of Colin Jackson (110m high hurdler and world record holder in 1993);

'Colin Jackson: Sprint Hurdler' oil on lined board, 183 x 114 cm (1991/93)
‘Colin Jackson: Sprint Hurdler’ oil on lined board, 183 x 114 cm (1991/93)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a space-time based triple portrait of Robert Thomas (sculptor) which was given the prefix title ‘Angelo-Oviri’.

'Angelo - Oviri: The Sculptor' oil on board, 75 x 95 cm (1996-98)
‘Angelo – Oviri: The Sculptor’ oil on board, 75 x 95 cm (1996-98)

 

More recently I captured the late Grace Williams (composer) and the almost nonagenarian Charles Fisher (writer and friend of Dylan Thomas).

'Grace Mary Williams: Composer' oil on board, 59 x 79 cm (2001-02)
‘Grace Mary Williams: Composer’ oil on board, 59 x 79 cm (2001-02)

 

 

'Charles Fisher: Writer' conte pastel on paper, 50 x 40 cm (2003-04)
‘Charles Fisher: Writer’ conte pastel on paper, 50 x 40 cm (2003-04)

 

All of these works do not aim at likeness alone but attempt to say something more about the sitter and culture.

This also applies to my self-portraits which were not intended to be a series at the outset but have grown into just that. The kicking-off point was my double self-portrait ‘Ceri XXV: Discordant Winter / Harmonious Summer’ (1983-84). It began as a single, winter portrait which was subsequently complemented by a second, summer one. These were then set into a single, bespoke frame which incorporated text. This piece was followed by my ‘Self-Portrait in Florence’ (1989) painted using oil tempera.

'Self-Portrait in Florence' oil tempera on lined board, 60 x 50 cm (1989)
‘Self-Portrait in Florence’ oil tempera on lined board, 60 x 50 cm (1989)

 

A second double-portrait ensued, once again initially planned as a single image. This is ‘Tŷ-tea, Guard-gardd’ (1996-98), its punning, bilingual title partly a result of having moved to Swansea. Originally, it carried the subtitle ‘Devolution Wales’. Recently, it acquired the replacement subtitle ‘Weak or Strong?’.

'Ty-tea, Guard-gardd' watercolour and pencil on paper, 64 x 90 cm (1996-98)
‘Ty-tea, Guard-gardd (“Weak or Strong?”)’ watercolour and pencil on paper, 64 x 90 cm (1996-98)

 

The images on paper ‘Revelation’ and ‘Reflection’ – designed as a pair in 2001 – and ‘Pererin: The Traveller’ (2002) represent yet more examples of me using myself not only as a model but also as a site or metaphor.

'Revelation' conte pastel on paper (2001)
‘Revelation’ conte pastel on paper, 58 x 44 cm (2001)
'Reflection' pencil and charcoal on paper (2001)
‘Reflection’ pencil and charcoal on paper, 58 x 44 cm (2001)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Pererin: The Traveller' conte pastel and watercolour on paper, 63 x 52 cm (2002)
‘Pererin: The Traveller’ conte pastel and watercolour on paper, 63 x 52 cm (2002)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The oils on board ‘Man for All Seasons’ (2009-11) and ‘Tillerman’ (2010-11) are recent cases in point, the latter acquiring the subtitle ‘Green and Dying’ in 2014.

'Man for All Seasons' oil on board, 70 x 50 cm (2009-11)
‘Man for All Seasons’ oil on board, 70 x 50 cm (2009-11)
'Man for All Seasons' oil on board, 70 x 50 cm (2009-11)
‘Tillerman (“Green and Dying”)’ oil on board, 61 x 47 cm (2010-11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two recent works on paper also take myself as a starting point. The one figure wears a ‘Wild November Beast’ hat made by Barbara Keal which I bought at the Mission Gallery Swansea. The other supports a pair of garden blackbirds.

'Endangered Species - working title' conte pastel on paper, 55 x 40 cm (2014)
‘Endangered Species’ conte pastel on paper, 55 x 40 cm (2014)

 

'Life Support' (2015) conte pastel and charcoal on watercolour paper, 75 x 56 cm
‘Life Support’, conte pastel and charcoal on watercolour paper, 75 x 56 cm (2015-16)

 

My final category, of single or group portraits of real or imagined figures, began in the mid 1980s with ‘Aberystwyth: Dolphin’s Eye View’ (the picture is now somewhere in Italy with its Welsh-Italian owners) and ‘Cartoon of Contemporary Wales’ (which was shown at the 1984 Lampeter National Eisteddfod).

'Cartoon of Contemporary Wales' watercolour and ink on paper (1984)
‘Cartoon of Contemporary Wales’ c.67.5 x c.100 cm, watercolour and ink on paper (1984)

 

Examples since then include the oil on board ‘Cycladic Tourism’ (1992), the watercolour and pencil ‘Sculptor Dreaming’ (2000) and the pair of watercolours ‘Pen-y-Bwlch’ and ‘Pen Tair Carn’ (both 2013).

Almost all of my figure pictures are also dealing with notions of real and imagined Place.

'Pen-y-Bwlch' watercolour on paper (2013)
‘Pen-y-Bwlch’ watercolour on paper (2013)
'Pen Tair Carn' watercolour on paper (2013)
‘Pen Tair Carn’ watercolour on paper (2013)

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