The Paintings of Ivor John Powell

The vision of a border Welshman

Welsh Flag by Ivor Powell

56. Welsh Flag

55.6 x 60.2cm. Canvas with new frame

NLW(PG 5866)

This thought-provoking composition is likely to have been painted in the late 1970s. The inclusion of the flag on Pontnewydd Church (bottom left) suggests that the painting was composed close to his St. Mary's, Abergavenny, where the same flag is prominently on display. For those who knew Ivor, his choice of a flag as a subject would have been totally unexpected. This makes it all the more significant. Perhaps, as the inheritor of the culture of a people whose visual symbolism had given the dragon a crucial function, it was inevitable that it would have to appear in Ivor's work at some point. His version of the Welsh flag, it seems, was intended to say something both about his own work and about his country. The four miniatures he placed on it were a summary of his efforts to record the buildings of Wales which he had been privileged to know. The views he included are of Chepstow Castle (top left), Chirk Castle (top right), Holy Trinity Church, Pontnewydd (bottom left) and Tintern Abbey (bottom right). The 'odd man out' in this series is the view of Tintern in that an earlier painting by him of this subject is not known. As a building it would have been a natural choice for him since he knew it well, especially during his Chepstow years. Though he later painted one further church from his home area, when he composed his flag he must have decided that his efforts to pay tribute to Welsh buildings had come to an end and that a summary of his work was now appropriate. (His Cwmyoy Church is an anomaly in that it was a chance meeting and the resulting gift of a postcard photograph that made it possible). From the national point of view, he seems to be drawing the viewer's attention to the distinctive cultural identity of Wales. In being neither aggressive nor domineering, this is a flag to welcome visitors, not only because it draws attention to the tourist attractions of Wales but because the dragon, for Ivor, was a life-giving rather than aggressive symbol. As the carving on the screen of Patrisio Church shows, the dragon as a life-source evidently has his origins deep in the Welsh past.

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