Hidden In Plain View

8 Apr

As I’m continuing to work with Dewi Bowen, the archaeologist, I realise just how many ancestral stone monuments there are across the Welsh landscape. Apart for a few years in England, I’ve lived in Wales all my life and I never realised how ubiquitous these ancient monuments are.  They seem reasonably well documented, on websites like The Megalithic Portal and the Modern Antiquarian and in county surveys, but how many people actually know the extent of them outside of a relatively small group of academics and enthusiasts? Despite their monumental size and their presence throughout millennia, they almost seem to be hidden in plain view, unseen and ignored by motorists and ramblers and dog walkers.

The Is-coed stone near Ferryside

The Is-coed stone near Ferryside

This reflection is beginning to influence the way I’m working. I have been drawing onto Fabriano paper that I’ve prepared with washes of home-made walnut ink, allowing my feelings and impressions of the ancient sites to guide what I put down. Then, out in the field, I draw over the background imagery with carbon, white conte crayon and occasionally soft oil pastels. This week, my drawings are far less substantial because I’m beginning to realise how peripheral these stones are to our everyday life and culture. Which is a pity.

Dewi Bowen's first book

Dewi Bowen’s first book

I’m travelling around South West Wales with archaeologist Dewi Bowen who is researching his new book on Neolithic / Bronze Age monuments. His previous book on the stones of Ancient Siluria (South East Wales) can be found here. Accompanying us is film maker Melvyn Williams who is recording a documentary about our experiences. Some of Melvyn’s short films can be seen here. I’m currently working on a series of expressive drawings of ancestral sites and if you want to see some of my other artworks, please click here.

2 Responses to “Hidden In Plain View”

  1. Leonie Andrews April 8, 2016 at 23:18 #

    Interesting thoughts. We have a number of scarred trees in our area where local Ngunawal Aboriginal people cut bark from the trees for various purposes. Some are large enough for canoes and many for carrying coolamons, like a shallow basket but with no handles. The more you look the more you can see. There are some that are well known and some that are ignored. I’m fairly sure that the policy is not to focus to heavily on all of them, just selected examples. Sadly this is to limit potential for deliberate vandalism. It’s a hard call to make because while it protects historical sites and artefacts it also ‘removes’ the presence of aboriginal communities from the landscape, making it easy to dismiss these people from our daily lives.

    • Rosie Scribblah April 9, 2016 at 08:57 #

      That’s a very interesting point. In the past, many ancient stones were broken or removed entirely for building. It’s not uncommon to see a Neolithic pair as gate posts in a farm field or cornerstones in a barn. I think the tide is turning though with a greater awareness of environment and heritage and certainly, over here, I think it’s time for the ancestors to be acknowledged again.

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