The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

Entrance, Tretower by Ivor Powell

17. Entrance, Tretower

23.5 x 30.5cm. Daler Board with re-used frame

NLW(PG 5898)

The title, in Ivor's own hand, appears on the reverse. Tretower would have been a natural subject for him to choose since it contributed much to his strong sense of place. His border territory he saw as almost a land of castles. In his youth he had helped to clear the White Castle moat of rubble and deposits, and his feeling for historic buildings may have developed from that early experience. His choosing to make a picture of the gatehouse would seem, for many, rather uninspired, yet it tells us much about his interests as a painter. The doorway of this almost ruined part of the building opens up a view of the more hospitable courtyard and great hall windows beyond. This makes for rich narrative possibilities and gives this painting a thought-provoking character. Unlike most of the historic buildings he knew, this one still has a habitable part to it. This makes the gatehouse facade rather like the blemished surface of a time-worn human face. It belongs to its interior and performs a necessary function for it, yet it also serves to hide the rich life within. The archway leads into a living world, and to view it is to anticipate the warmth of meetings with those in the windowed rooms beyond. This painting may be of stone and timber, therefore, but it is really about people and what they have made. However, the material surface, the physical character of the gatehouse, also appealed to him. There is something of Thomas Jones's studies of buildings in Naples in the way he lovingly presents the features of the wall surface. The relationships between the holes above the archway and the rows of corbels beneath them are very much in the spirit of Jones. By selecting such warm tones for his wall, Ivor ensured that the form of his painting would be in harmony with his narrative.

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