The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

Upper Cwmbran by Ivor Powell

38. Upper Cwmbran

cm. Canvas with home-made frame and additional owner's frame.

Private Collection

This landscape, of the lower slopes of Mynydd Maen, was a short but stiff walk from Ivor's house, and he knew it well. The farm, in local vernacular style, which was included by Fox and Raglan in Volume III of their ground-breaking Monmouthshire Houses, is of historic interest, and Siloam Baptist Chapel, in the bold simplicity of its forms, would have appealed to him on visual grounds, if on no other. It seems likely that one of Roy's photographs formed the basis for his composition. It shows that he really could, and did, view the chapel and farm from a high vantage point. This is his only landscape without a sky, and he seems to have decided on this to make the chapel itself his source of light and to have the tree to the left of the farm as a centre from which his composition could radiate. In this way, he captures the enclosed and secure atmosphere of so many Welsh hill communities. It is significant that an area of his locality which would have offered him a rich array of subjects reflecting the industrial history of Cwmbran - the square of miners' houses clinging to the hillside and the entrance to an abandoned mine were close by - he chose not to use directly in making this addition to his series of paintings in which he sought to construct his image of a better world. The garden to the farm is full of vegetables and, on the slope in the foreground he knew as barely able to support grass at that time, he has sheep grazing and horses being ridden for pleasure.

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