The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

Abbey Dore by Ivor Powell

19. Abbey Dore

29.8 x 37.5cm. Card with home-made frame

NLW(PG 5877)

Ivor's experience of Abbey Dore would have been wholly positive. He explored it on family outings and recollections of its architectural features would have been mingled with memories of the good-humoured interactions of his family group. It is significant that there are four figures in the painting and they occupy, not a sombre graveyard but one in which the stones stand up to keep them company in this idyllic setting. This is very much a landscape for the living. The figure carrying flowers seems more likely to give them to someone else than to place them to wither on a grave. It is likely that he used a postcard for this composition. An undated card of the church he possessed has a gravestone prominently lit by the Sun, in line with a buttress at the base of the tower, in just the way he uses it. He also has shadows, both in the churchyard and on the building, which appear on the card, but he makes sure that he excludes a tree at top left, which would have done offence to his composition. The south transept he lengthens, and the vesica-shaped window, above its main lancet windows, he makes into an unambiguously round opening. Whereas, in visiting the site, one is immediately struck by the absence of the nave, in the painting the building seems happily complete. He takes great care to show how, to remain standing, the building has had to be repaired in such a way as to give the warm stone surfaces a patched appearance. In its rough-hewn state, it seems to have arisen from the soil rather than been placed on top of it. This painting, especially, shows how he had come to conceive of buildings in landscapes as living presences. This church is no mere truncated Cistercian relic. There is nothing sinister about its gravestones. They seem to dance an accompaniment to the main theme of the building.

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