The Great Philosophers
A friend of my father’s, Harry Lover, originally interested me in philosophy, lending me a book by C. E. M. Joad when I was still in school. In 1990 I attended a course on The Great Philosophers at Rhosllanerchrugog which is famous for its male voice choir.
Following the course on “The Great Philosophers” at Rhosllanerchrugog, I bought books on both Aristotle and Plato from my favourite second hand bookshop in Llangollen.
I later bought a copy of The Splendour That Was Egypt by Margaret A. Murray. Following this I painted a small picture which I call Sisters’ Outing which could have been influenced by the pair of statues of Rahotep and Nefert.
I had a number of conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses on our doorstep during this period. I could not agree with them on everything but found our conversations interesting.
A number of paintings done in this period reflect this interest in philosophy and religion, including Bulldozers, The Probity of Virtue, The Amateur, Bowsaw, Moment of Truth, Liverpool Park, Sisters Outing, party Conversations, Remorse, Mourning Lady and Uttoxeter.
The Probity of Virtue
In 1990, the Mostyn was offering a prize in their open exhibition and this time there was a theme, namely “The Probity of Virtue”. I didn’t like the idea of a theme but my father persuaded me that I should paint a picture specially for the exhibition. I illustrated my ideas on philosophy and religion in my painting. The two figures on the left are Jehovas Witnesses, monks are included at top middle and the young woman on the right is showing her disapproval of pornography.
On arrival at the private view, after driving through thick fog, I was surprised to discover that I had been awarded the prize. The judging panel included the artist Peter Prendergast and the then director of Tate Liverpool Lewis Biggs.
Later in this period, in 1994, my paintings Sisters’ Outing and Aeroplane 1 were on show in the Mostyn, when the gallery informed me that they had been bought by the actress Julie Christie. I later received a postcard from her.
In 1993 I decided to try the rule that I must get everything right first time, rather as if I were painting in watercolour. This method requires considerable care, of course, and I have given the name “Care” to it. The painting “Charles Street” and “Red Flower” are examples. This technique has been useful, to a degree, ever since.
I remember seeing my painting Lloyds in the Theatr Clwyd gallery at Mold and thinking that the composition was not coherent enough, and resolving to try and improve my compositions, almost whatever the cost! To make the task easier, I simplified all the forms and suppressed the detail. The result was a style which I call “Form” or “Formal Style” and it has been useful ever since. “Supermarket Aisle” is the first real example.
Many years before, a friend recommended I read Gone to Earth by Mary Webb. It made a deep impression on me at the time, possibly because of my rural childhood, and in 1994 I became interested in traditional rural life as a subject and produced the painting I call Mary Webb.
In 1993 I became interested in sculpture. A friend who is a potter gave me clay and modeling tools and I made clay studies in the life class. Some of these were cast rather unsuccessfully in quick-drying cement but the rough texture of the surfaces really interested me.
St Andrews and Nottingham
In 1995 our daughter Emily started at St Andrews University and in 1997 our daughter Eleanor started at Nottinham University. We enjoyed visiting them both and some of the paintings, including St Andrews Café, Student Hall, Uttoxeter and Nottingham, were inspired by those visits.
Caergwrle Chess Club
In 1996 a chess club was started in our local village of Caergwrle and I became one of the founder members. I like the sense of order in chess and like to relate this to the order of artistic composition. There is a philosophical side to chess and the ideas of chess seem immune from the problems of life. On the other hand, in a competitive match, chess feels like a life and death struggle and I feel that the game helps me to come to terms with the more problematical side of life.
In 1996 my father had to go into a care home called Cartref y Borth, situated in Llanrwst. During his time there I visited him often. We went sketching, played chess and read from the book of his poems. He died in 1998.