Planet 231

Peter Lord reviews
The Vein of Lice: Paintings and Works on Paper 1976 – 2016
by Hanlyn Davies


Privately published; distributed by Silver Street Media (USA), US$175.99

Twenty-five years ago, when I began to write my first survey book about Welsh visual culture, the problem arose of how to place the work of an artist such as Gwen John, who was born and grew up in Wales but who chose to make her career elsewhere. It seemed to me that there were two relevant issues, the one almost the converse of the other. Firstly, there was the degree of engagement that the people of Wales had with the work, and secondly, the degree of engagement of the work with the people of Wales. In the mid-1990s, Gwen John seemed marginal on both counts – though very soon afterwards, as interest in the work of women artists in general increased exponentially, she certainly became a part of Welsh public consciousness and so came to fulfil that first requirement. In the case of the painter and printmaker Hanlyn Davies the situation is reversed. Davies was born and grew up in Gorseinon, but Welsh engagement with his work has been limited, certainly outside the Swansea area. On the other hand, although the artist left Wales for the United States in the mid-1960s, he carried his home country with him, and his exploitation of images rooted in his family and wider Welsh cultural origins remained a point of return, almost an anchor, throughout what would become a distinguished professional life.

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