Field-notes (2010-12)

Field-notes was a collaborative exhibition between artist Iwan Bala and poet Menna Elfyn. For over a year, fragments of Elfyn’s poems, lists of Welsh place names, family names, critical essays and other scattered references have inspired and sustained Bala’s drawings.
Presented as a study in progress, these ink soaked, scratched out, torn and broken words express a defiant austerity - a metaphor for the fragility of marginalised languages - no matter how much they are rubbed down, wiped away, left to wither, they continue to prevail.
Elfyn’s words and phrases are illuminated by Bala with blunt charcoal, crumbling chalk and bamboo ink pens, creating lines of letters that suggest a slipping seepage. They allude to our connection to, as well as our inexorable separation from the places that surround us in this increasingly globalised society.
Throughout the exhibition, words disappear and resurface between ink stains and chalk dust in a process similar to the poet’s forging of a poem. Their struggle to be seen and read is akin to the poet’s process of thinking, note making, writing and re-writing, the effort to identify the best words to use.
During their many conversations, both Bala and Elfyn have unearthed layers of shared meanings and connections. Through the act of creating they find hope for Welsh cultural identity. This resulting exhibition is as much a celebration of the poets craft – Ystad bardd astudio byd – as it is the artists desire to consider and represent the world anew. Together they shovel light into darkness, offering us a glimpse of a place beyond the grief of hiraeth and mourning; an oasis. What Elin ap Hywel translates from Elfyn’s poem as Love: a place where land meets water.
Ciara Healy. See catalogue for Field-notes in Documents.
Watch the opening talk given by Professor M Wynn Thomas, Emyr Humphreys Chair of Welsh Writing in English at Swansea University with Poet, Menna Elfyn here