Planet 234

John Barnie reviews
fragments… encounters with poetry: text drawings by Iwan Bala by Iwan Bala, Anne Price-Owen and Osi Rhys Osmond

by Iwan Bala, Anne Price-Owen and Osi Rhys Osmond

The H’mm Foundation, £9.99

This sumptuously produced book is a collection of Iwan Bala’s ‘text drawings’ with a commentary on them by Iwan Bala himself and Anne Price-Owen. A concluding essay by the late Osi Rhys Osmond recalls the annual tour he made with Nigel Jenkins, shepherding a group of American students around Wales to give them a kaleidoscopic understanding of the variety and complexity of Welsh culture and history. This may seem an arbitrary add-on, but the essay is relevant because of Nigel Jenkins’ centrality to Iwan Bala’s concept of ‘custodial aesthetics’.

Custodianship, he writes, is ‘associated with the resistance to the erosion of language (Welsh) and tradition, culture and memory of a people’. Although he wrote in English, Nigel Jenkins was finely attuned to this, as of course is Twm Morys, and as was the greatly missed Iwan Llwyd during his lifetime. These poets, in fact, are a key inspiration of the text drawings reproduced in fragments, for as Iwan Bala notes, it is poets who have been the custodians of Welsh culture through the primacy of language. This has been less so in visual art, and in these works Iwan Bala attempts, as it were, to redress the balance by incorporating poetry, especially that of Nigel Jenkins, into the fabric of his visual re-presentation of our cultural tradition.

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