New Drawing: Milltir Sgwar

Milltir Sgwar (Water soluble Graphite & Gesso on Canvas Board 60cm x 60cm)

This was the second of my three submissions to the Kyffin Williams Drawing Prize to be held at the Oriel (although this one also wasn’t accepted).

This piece was inspired by Andrew Green’s description in the Kyffin Williams Annual Lecture he gave in 2016 of Anglesey as Sir Kyffin’s ‘Milltir Sgwar’ or ‘Square Mile’ in English, which I believe loosely translates as ‘his patch’.

Whilst mulling this phrase over, together with the image of the map of Anglesey, I was reminded of the late Paul Davies, the sculptor tutor on the Art Foundation Course I attended at Coleg Menai in the 80s. During sessions in his classes we occasionally caught sight of Paul working on his Mappa Mundi series of works, which he produced based on the map of Wales and made out of mixed media and found objects (I think).

It was whilst googling Paul’s name last year that I first encountered the story of his ‘Welsh Not’ protest at the 1977 Eisteddfod and the incredibly iconic photo that captures it so vividly, in which Paul is seen in almost crucifixion-like pose.

What made the image even more pertinent to me is that during my brief time studying under Paul, he encouraged (and actively helped) me to produce a life-sized Christ figure out of old car exhaust pipes which carried a huge wooden railway sleeper across its shoulders. Looking back, the finished piece must have had real resonance for Paul of which I certainly wasn’t aware at the time. (As a side note, I believe that the exhaust pipe sculpture ended up in the garden of an old people’s home, where it must have frightened the living daylights out of the residents!)

Having discovered Paul’s political activism and his founding of the Beca group of artists in response to the lack of support for the Welsh arts at that time, I read about the post-colonial work of Iwan Bala (such as Cymru Ewropa and Mapostan) which led me onto the work by Joaquim Torres-García, in one of which he presented an upturned map of South America.

Given the highly charged political events currently under way, and a recent attempt to restrict the use of Welsh in the workplace, I felt it wasn’t too unreasonable to use this piece to point out that ideas of nationhood and culture are being turned on their head.

Paul Davies later carved his WN sleeper into a Welsh Love Spoon, hence its inclusion in This Be The Verse.

The series of three drawings is intended to pay homage to the life of Sir Kyffin Williams in this, the centenary of his birth, and they were inspired by reading numerous articles, writings and speeches by and about him. Any historical or interpretive inaccuracies are entirely my own!

The full list of drawings submitted to the competition is as follows:

  1. This Be The Verse
  2. Milltir Sgwar
  3. The Shadow He Pursues

The Kyffin Williams Drawing Prize “was founded in 2009 by the Kyffin Williams Trust and Oriel Môn; and works in partnership with the National Museum Wales, Cardiff and the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. The competition – which is held every three years – aims to promote and reward excellence and talent in drawing practice across Wales. It also serves as a tribute to the support Kyffin Williams gave to aspiring artists and the value he placed on drawing skills throughout his career.”


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