I’ve spent a few days in north Wales soaking up the mountains, forests and valleys near the Snowdonia National Park. I have to admit that I adore Wales for all its rugged beauty, and for the communities that thrive among the hills. Its a hard life for many people. Jobs are pretty scarce, and yet there are artist-makers, designers, teachers, builders, singers, carpenters, farmers, and more flourishing across Dyfi Valley and beyond. I feel at home in north Wales, even though I’ve never lived there and need help pronouncing the names.
‘Foel Grochan’ is the name of a mountain and associated slate mine to the north of Corris. Some of the locals call the quarry ‘Mordor’ because it looks like the entrance to Middle-Earth’s version of Hell. In reality, it is part of the Aberllefenni slate quarry, which has been in operation since the 14th century (it closed in 2003). The contrast between the mountain and it’s spilled ‘innards’ is quite astounding. A local told me the mountain is now hollow.
The slate extracted from the mine is particularly thick and dark. Not suitable for roofing: more for walls and building. Its called ‘Dulas’ (pronnounced Dy-las), which means ‘blue-black’ and also gives its name to the river below ‘Afon Dulas’.
My first painting – Foel Grochan – took some time to build up, and the scale of the little house was wrong and had to be painted over. I couldn’t help feeling that the mountain wanted to be more colourful: more abstract in a sense, so I went back the next day. The second painting – Dulas – came quickly. I think the mountain was telling me something. I think she was saying to look beyond the physical. She was say that there is permanent life, and colour and energy flowing from her, DESPITE the centuries of mining at her roots.
I believe that the landscape has a voice and a language, which can be felt deep inside. Not always translatable, but present: waiting for us to listen. Through my paintings I attempt to translate this language of feelings.