The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

Chum by Ivor Powell

20. Chum

24 x 29cm. Daler Board with new frame

NLW(PG 5899)

Chum was the family dog. Ivor was so attached to him that, after his death, he would not replace him. He served both as a family pet and as a working dog, especially since Ivor, in acquiring him, was anxious to avoid the experience of one of his predecessors, who had received serious head injuries from thieves hiding in a building. Chum performed his work thoroughly and would easily identify a human presence, however concealed. He was no conventional police dog, however, since he was generally indulged by the community and would often return home carrying a large bone given to him by the butcher, making him appear as much poacher as gamekeeper. In terms of technique, this composition might be regarded as an early work, but Ivor was recorded as saying that he composed it in 1968. The dog is instantly recognisable as Chum. His single white paw and chest, his large ears and ample tail, and his seriously challenging, if not threatening eyes, which gave strangers at least the initial impression that he should be feared, are all there. Though Ivor had two small photographs of him sitting on the lawn at the side of the Police Station, he followed neither in setting the dog on something like a steep bank or mountainside, with an undifferentiated sky behind him. It is as though he wanted to locate him on the mountain above the village, in the isolated places where he had enjoyed himself most. That he was seeking to do more with his painting than simply copy the appearance of his dog is evident in his inclusion of a 'deliberate mistake'. He gives Chum not one but two white chests. This helps to break any illusion that this is only a representation of a dog. It is, rather, a narrative of a dog in his heaven. Ivor hung the picture beside the fireplace, and close to his armchair, where he could renew his acquaintance with him every day.

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