The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

Holy Trinity Church, Pontnewydd by Ivor Powell

23. Holy Trinity Church, Pontnewydd

24 x 29.8cm. Daler Board with re-used glazed black frame

Private Collection

When Ivor signed the painting, he clearly dated it 1969. The date is significant in that it helps explain why he chose this subject. His younger son, Geoff, married Julia, the daughter of Canon Redd, the vicar of the parish, in this church in the summer of that year. This handsome building was designed by the partnership of Prichard and Seddon in the late 1850s, and formed part of a trio of Gothic Revival buildings, which included church, vicarage and school with school house attached. Sadly, the school and school house have been removed for new housing. The design of the church was thought too adventurous and decorative at the time, and, since Seddon went on to design the bold Gothic university college on the seafront at Aberystwyth, it seems reasonable to assume that he had considerable influence on the Pontnewydd design, if not full control over it. Though repairs and additions have tended to detract from the consistency of Seddon's original conception, it is still possible to appreciate that it was designed by someone with a good eye, and Ivor appreciated this. He could not have relied on a photograph to compose this work since no photograph could present such a complete view, yet the church is instantly recognisable from it through its distinctive tower and the patterning of the stone and brickwork. Though a later painting of the church showed that the flag post was removed, there really was one in 1969. The original purpose behind locating it in front of the church may have been to mark the site as an outpost of diocese or even empire, but it also had considerable aesthetic potential, as Ivor showed in his painting. Here he was painting at his calmest and most considered. There are subtle relationships to be experienced in every part of this painting and it always rewards a careful viewing with new experiences and reflections. There is clear evidence of his making deliberate decisions over how this painting was to be read. The light tone of the pathway beside the church, for example, suddenly takes on the dark tone of the driveway when it reaches the white flag pole, whereas the similar light tone of the edging to the driveway is maintained across the whole of the foreground. Again, whereas being obedient to the laws of geometrical perspective throughout would have created a view of the church which would have been weighted to the right, and would have directed the eye there, he only kept to them in the tower and the nave. The east end of the chancel he turned to face the viewer and, in doing so, provided a counter-weight to this movement. What seems like a shadow cast by the tower on the roof beside it has more to do with securing relationships within the painting than with simulating shadows. Throughout the composition, such modulations of tone serve to direct the eye as much as to give form to its material constituents. This was not only a painting of a subject which meant much to him but one which he had worked out thoroughly to a satisfying conclusion. It was to be seen hanging in his living room.

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