Tag Archives: Siluria

The Living Stones

17 Apr

Tyn Cellar

We managed to get to 4 ancient stones earlier this week and this one, Ty’n y Selar, is near Margam, in a field right next to the M4 motorway. It’s a fine large menhir, around 8 feet tall, but the sound of the traffic really intruded into the atmosphere of the place, disrupting the peace. A legend says that Saint Samson threw it into the field from Margam Hill; one of the locals we met told us of a legend that the stone regularly walks to take a drink at the local pub! I also read that the stone walks to the sea to drink each Christmas morning before the cock crows. There have been several other stones on my journey with Dewi and Melvyn that are supposed to be able to walk to take a drink.

One thing I’ve noticed about the stones as I’ve been travelling across South Wales is that they are rarely cold to the touch, they’re a comfortable temperature and most are covered with extensive colonies of lichens. I place my hand on each stone I visit, but carefully as lichen can be many years old and I don’t want to damage it. The temperature and the lichen give me an impression that the stones are somehow imbued with life, they are living stones.

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.

The Base Of The Stone

16 Apr

Bonymaen 1

 

The second stone I drew on this week’s journey to explore the standing stones of South Wales is just three or so miles from where I live and I had no idea it existed. It’s in an area of Swansea called Bon-y-Maen and it never occurred to me to translate the name – it’s ‘The Base Of The Stone‘! And here it is, on the green in front of the local pub. The original village, later subsumed into the city limits, seems to have been built around the stone. It’s Bronze Age, possibly 4,000 years or so old. There’s a legend that the same stone ends in the village of Penmaen on the Gower Peninsula; Penmaen is Welsh for ‘Head Of The Stone‘.

 

Bonymaen 2

Many of the local stones are sedimentary and if you look closely you can see that I have drawn the patterns made by the sediments flaking on top of the drawing in white. Once again I’ve used Fabriano paper prepared with my home-made walnut ink and then worked on top in carbon and white conte crayon. I’m regularly using a restricted palette of 3 Daler-Rowney soft pastels in a pale blue and two greens. I am continuing to move away from realism and trying to interpret my feelings of the stone, my experience of it, concentrating on mark-making with the different media.

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.

The Third Stone

11 Apr

Llechdwnni 2

This is the third standing stone in the Llechdwnni group. It is positioned opposite the pair I posted yesterday and the archaeologist I’m journeying with, Dewi Bowen, thinks that the three stones might have been planned as a circle originally and either were not completed or the rest have disappeared over the millennia.

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.

 

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.

Rocking!

11 Mar

Rocking

Carrying on with our search for ancient monuments, we came across this famous one on the hillside above Pontypridd. It’s The Rocking Stone, or Y Garreg Siglo in Welsh. This seems to be two massive stones laid one on top of the other, probably a glacial erratic placed by a glacier in the last Ice Age.  but certainly done by nature, not by people. It attracted the attention of poet and bard Iolo Morgannwg, who held the second modern Eisteddfod there in 1795.  The stone circle, The Gorsedd, was erected around it some time later by the bard Myfyr Morgannwg.

Rocking 2

Film maker Melvyn Williams and a archaeologist Dewi Bowen rocking on the stone

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 standing stones of Ancient Siluria (South East Wales) can be found here. Accompanying us is film maker Melvyn Williams who is recording a documentary about the our experiences. Some of Melvyn’s short films can be seen here. I’m working on a series of expressive drawings of ancestral sites and if you want to see some of my other artworks, please click here.

 

The Stoneless Ring

8 Mar
penlle bebyll

My very quick drawing with Dewi and Melvyn in the background

The final drawing from last Sunday’s trek around ancient ancestral sites took us up a mountain to the Pentre’r Bebyll ring cairn up above Pontarddulais. At 860 feet, the summit of Mynydd Pysgodlyn was really cold and I was already chilly from doing the two previous drawings at Bryn y Rhyd and Graig Fawr. This circular earthwork is about 60 feet in diameter but only a couple of feet high. It’s possible that there were once standing stones but now there’s just an earth bank remaining.

It’s difficult to draw something that is simultaneously so large (in diameter) and so small (in height) so I threw myself onto the freezing ground and focussed on the contours in front of me, drawing them boldly in carbon and white conte crayon across the paper that I’d previously prepared with home made walnut ink. It was a very quick drawing because I was cold, tired and fed up. Sketching on top of a previous drawing speeds up the process a lot and makes it unpredictable and spontaneous. I finished as I started, spattered with mud.

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 standing stones of Ancient Siluria (South East Wales) can be found here. Accompanying us is film maker Melvyn Williams who is recording a documentary about the our experiences. Some of Melvyn’s short films can be seen here. I’m working on a series of expressive drawings of ancestral sites and if you want to see some of my other artworks, please click here.

 

 

Ponies And A Monstrous Cat

6 Mar

Graig Fawr

Out again today exploring ancient neolithic monuments in South West Wales, quite near to home this time. Our first stop was a fair hike up Graig Fawr (Big Rock) mountain near Pentrebach (Little Village) not far from Pontarddulais near Garreg Llwyd (Grey Rocks) farm in the County of Swansea. We walked in the freezing weather up to two small chambered tombs considered the most westerly of the Cotswold / Severn type tomb in Britain. The stones are not named so I’m going to call them Carreg Palug (Palug’s Stones) after a monstrous cat in Welsh mythology that terrorised warriors in Anglesey. Why not, eh?

We also met some gorgeous ponies up on the mountain. They were very curious, especially when they spotted my lunchbox!

I’m travelling around with archaeologist Dewi Bowen who is researching his new book. His previous book on the standing stones of Ancient Siluria (South East Wales) can be found here. Accompanying us is film maker Melvyn Williams who is recording a documentary about the process. Some of Melvyn’s short films can be seen here. If you want to see some more of my artworks, please click here.

 

Sunpan And Gong

10 Dec

The Bagpuss Window, a semi-derelict anarchic artspace, flashed into existence for three short weeks in September (2015) and then ended as abruptly as it started as the wrecking crew moved in to demolish the building. Fellow artist Melanie Ezra and I took it on at very short notice from developers Coastal Group and opened it up for artists, musicians and poets to see what happened. It was fabulous. Creative people from across Swansea and beyond wandered in and used the space to develop new work, ideas and collaborations. Film maker Melvyn Williams and I recorded what was going on and Melvyn has been editing the footage into short videos to show what happened.

Here’s the first, featuring Sharon Edlington-Douglas and David Pitt who bumped into each other one day and started playing their instruments, Sharon with a Sunpan and David with gongs. The door was open into the High Street, we were having a glorious Indian Summer, and the extraordinary sound reverberated along the road. I became absorbed in the music as I drew on the wall of the decrepit old shop and people wandered in to walk a labyrinth made from bark chippings by David and local archaeologist Dewi Bowen.

wall l

Dewi has written a book about ancient stone monuments in Siluria, South Wales, you can find out about it here. David is involved in keeping alive the Mari Lwyd in the Swansea and Gower area – you can read more about this fascinating tradition here.

Walking The Labyrinth

26 Sep

Here’s 3 minutes of my feet walking the lovely labyrinth made from chipped bark by archaeologist Dewi Bowen and musician David Pitt in The Bagpuss Window this week. The feet are not interesting at all, except it looks like I have my shoes on the wrong feet, but the accompanying gong music from David is wonderful. Go with the flow…….

Dewi has written an excellent book about Siluria, now South-East Wales, and its ancient standing stones, burial chambers, cairns and stone circles. Well worth a read and dead cheap.

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