The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

Dwy Olwyn by Ivor Powell

24. Dwy Olwyn

39.5 x 49.5cm. Daler Board with home-made frame

Private Collection

Ivor visited this bungalow while his son Geoff and daughter-in-law, Julia, lived there in the Autumn of 1969 and Spring of 1970. Its name refers to the two wheels enclosed in the white gates shown in the painting. Largely pre-fabricated to a standard design, the bungalow formed part of a housing development near Dolgellau. The surroundings of the building were extremely beautiful and still wild enough for buzzards to rest unperturbed on the garden fence. It had the most wonderful panoramic view of Cader Idris and Ivor loved the place. He did not work on the picture during his visit, so it was wholly composed in Pontnewydd. If he made any preparatory drawing at all, it would have been of the briefest kind, and there is no known photograph to which he might have referred. The composition was therefore built from memory images, and he used them freely. Though there were few houses on the hillside, the bungalow was not as isolated as the painting suggests. Though he remembered, accurately, the colour of the curtains in the windows, he then made sure this suburban implant was integrated into the picture surface by including the pervasive blue of the landscape in the central areas of the windows. Though he had in his memory the general nature of the broken woodland thinned out by the developers (and he captured its character so well), he lacked a detailed knowledge of the actual location and form of the trees on the hillside. He was therefore free to order his own trees according to the painting's needs. Like the ones we see in early Renaissance paintings, they were placed to satisfy the demands of the composition. There are the trees which take the eye from the white gates to the sky, the prominent tree which bends to the left and creates a powerful counter-weight to the bungalow, the tree which stands alone, slightly off centre, and serves as a point of balance, and the trees high above the roof at extreme right, which are so vital to the whole. They all appear so natural, so uncontrived, yet each was placed to satisfy the surface demands of his composition. Even the faulty perspective of the receding side of the house enables his design to work more effectively, since it reduces the upward pressure which accurate perspective would have failed to counter. Fortunately, Winifred took a photograph of him giving the painting some finishing touches in the sunlight at the back of his home. This is the only visual record we have of his working practice as a painter and it shows how simple were his means, with a kitchen chair as easel, to achieve his sophisticated ends.

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