Last Saturday, in my usual pre-match ritual, I visited the art exhibition at St.David's Hall en route to ( I almost wrote 'Ninian Park' ) the Cardiff City Stadium. There were many works displayed as part of Welsh Artist of the Year, the winner being a conceptual piece which seemed to come from a philosopher who'd had an really bad time at IKEA. Perhaps, like my family once, he just couldn't find a way out! The second prize was a collage in rocks, with graphics at its centre and there were many clever photos, including a rounded version of Aberystwyth, which might have derived from the Camera Obscura.
   Exceptionally-talented Merthyr artist Michael Gustavius Payne ( check out his website : is quite revolutionary in that he uses oils and can actually paint. Gus ( as we know him) has been in the Welsh Artist exhibitions four times, but not represented for the last two years. Conceptual art has taken over, but he says 'it's like judging opera against poetry'. His works are on the covers of two of my books : 'Laughter tangled in thorn' and 'Walking on Waste'. He's a Merthyr artist through and through, but not one who can be readily categorized as naturalistic. His characters ( both animals and humans) are often embroiled in vital relationships of struggle or support. His landscapes are symbolic, but do have resonances of the Dowlais so close to where he lives. Recent paintings reflect Welsh mythology and sayings and if you look closely at the series 'Dim Gobaith'
and 'Allan o'r cwd' , you'll sense his thoughts on the present state of society, with the small yet shining canary on the shoulders of an official-looking character ( maybe a banker ) who is always looking away.
   I'm particularly enthusiastic about collaborating with a painter of this vision and richness of textures. However, such a collaboration will not involve him illustrating my work or me directly interpreting his images. Rather, it will depend on thought-waves across the valley of the Taf, from my west to his east. Hopefully, no mobile phone masts will interfere. In future, we are planning exhibitions and reading across Wales, with an anticipated beginning and end in the Valleys.
   So far I've chosen to write in prose-poetry in response to Welsh place-names, adages and also resonant words. Some have turned out more narrative, while others are more akin to rhyming verse. The one below looks at 'Dim gobaith caneri' ( or' no hope like a canary'), which I wrote before I saw Gus's paintings :
                                  DIM GOBAITH CANERI
   I am the No Hope Canary, singing in the deepest gallery. Below vaults of borrowed money.
   Trees rot eventually, become coal. But what of these notes ; surely they will explode.
   These last years I have sung and people say - 'Listen how tunefully!' They do not hear truly.
   If they did, they would find a seam of sorrow there.
   I am left in my cage : no up and down. My beak a useless tool against iron.
   Dim .........the lights are leaving. Who will listen  , even when I stop my singing?
   'Gobaith' has shine, but here the only gleam's on damp rock.
   The seep of gas from above, from those vaults : the steep banks of paper carcases.
   I am the No Hope Canary,dumb in the deepest gallery.         

08/19/2009 17:04

Hello Mike,
Loved the poem. It really says exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about with the paintings and has given me some inspiration for other work, together with the Ffos y Fran blog/poem. I think the two are becoming one in a kind of way...not sure what yet but we'll see.
Also I've entered the W.A.Y. exhibition 4 times but only been exhibited twice (they rejected the last two :( ).
Hope the last open mike night went well. I'll be back for the next one.

01/22/2014 05:50

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