Ivor Davies and Destruction in Art – Curated by Judit Bodor
In exhibition from: 14/11/15 – 20/03/16 – National Gallery Wales
This is a retrospective of Ivor Davies work to date. I was surprised that I had not heard of this wonderful Welsh artist before especially as I have an interest in his subject matter, ‘Destruction and Creation’, also I have been living in Wales for the last four years.
The exhibition consists of sculpture, paintings, performance and my favourite part the Archive. The theme throughout is Destruction however there is also an underlying theme of political activism and community action, and this is what I am particularly enamoured with. One of the pieces he presented us with that highlighted community action was ‘Death and Taxes’ 2014. This piece consisted of a collection of tax files in various stages of disintegration. It was in reference to a couple who refused to pay their taxes unless the tax letters were presented to them in their native language ‘Welsh’, eventually the government agencies conceded but not without punishing the couple through legal process first. There is a sense of solidarity in this piece, a sense of empowerment and remembrance of those who have actioned in the past. A warning least we forget what we can accomplish when we stand together in peaceful protest. An important lesson in any time but particularly in society today were we see the ever increasing destruction of community and social bond through gentrification.
Another one of his paintings contained red earth and at its centre is a tiny horse (Celtic Goddess) after the name of the village ‘Capal Celyn’. The painting spoke of how the village was reclaimed by the government to turn into a reservoir to supply water out of the country to the city of Liverpool. Again we are presented with destruction, destruction of community, social bonds and their environments and not for the good of that community but for the benefit of wealthier community miles away. These decisions are often out of the control of the marginalised.
More about the flooding of the village: here
In the performance area you were presented with an installation of a past performance or ‘Happening’ that originally played out somewhere between 1966-1968. I appreciate how the artist experiments with different mediums in his practice, much like my own. This video and sound space also had an interactive element where you could use a prepared paper bag to protect yourself from what was being witnessed. The video was a collage of photography, war footage and recordings the artist made. The combination of the sound, darkened room and the muted coloured lights for me had a profound affect. I started to think about humans searching for humanity in a violent world.
This was my favourite place in the exhibition. What a fantastic idea! In the back room attached to the exhibition like a head attached to the body was a space filled with all the ‘Stuff’ Ivor Davies had collected over the years. Stuff that may have lain strewn around his studio. Collections of newspaper cuttings (Oh the nostalgia), photographs, brochures and beautifully hand written letters from correspondences Ivor had had. You could literally spend days in this room. It is a wonderful insight into what the artist was thinking and being influenced by.
I didn’t get to read them all (I will be going back) however one article that jumped out at me was a newspaper clipping from ‘The Scotsman’, dated 21st March 1967, titled ‘Life is brimful of happenings’, where a critic who had recently attended one of Ivor Davies events had on exiting the event noticed something going on in a building site across the road. What would have previously only retained a minimum of interest had become interesting and immersive. He started to notice and take interest in all that life was presenting to him on a daily basis. It altered his perception of his reality. This room definitely deserves longer attention and study. I will be going back.
I compliment the curator Judit Bodor, who pulled this exciting exhibition together. Ivor Davies is now a giant who’s shoulders I stand on.