A Fine Romance; A Poem about Wales by American Beat Writer Allen Ginsberg Is the Starting Point of a New Exhibition Which Explores Modern Forms of Romanticism. It Is One of Two Major Displays Opening at National Museum Cardiff This Weekend. Curator Nicholas Thornton Reveals What Visitors Can Expect

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Fine Romance; A Poem about Wales by American Beat Writer Allen Ginsberg Is the Starting Point of a New Exhibition Which Explores Modern Forms of Romanticism. It Is One of Two Major Displays Opening at National Museum Cardiff This Weekend. Curator Nicholas Thornton Reveals What Visitors Can Expect


Byline: Allen Ginsberg

VISITORS entering Wales Visitation - the latest exhibition at National Museum Cardiff's contemporary galleries - will first encounter a giant projection of the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg being interviewed on American television in 1968.

At first they may question why Ginsberg is accorded pride of place, but if they pause for a moment they will realise that the poem Ginsberg is reciting is all about Wales.

Exploring the Black Mountains in the summer of 1967, Ginsberg took LSD and while on this chemically induced high was moved to write the poem Wales Visitation - a romanticised portrayal of the Llanthony Valley. This brief encounter between 1960s counter-culture and the eastern fringes of the Brecon Beacons is the starting point for the exhibition, which uses the lens of Ginsberg's visionary poem to take us on an alternative tour through the landscape and traditions of Wales.

Just as Ginsberg referenced the Welsh bard in his poem, the exhibition features one of the most iconic paintings in the national collection - Thomas Jones' The Bard (1774). We also encounter the poet and antiquarian Iolo Morganwg, who established the Gorsedd of the Bards in 1792, but also used his own brilliance to forge poetry and invent histories that supported his erroneous claim to be the last druidic bard.

Like many other figures associated with the Romantic Movement, Iolo was thought to be a laudanum addict and this may well have affected his perception and judgement.

These romantic themes are continued into the next gallery where we see some of the most important modern landscapes held in the national collection. Seven of Graham Sutherland's colourful late canvases dominate the space. They were directly inspired by the Pembrokeshire landscape, which Sutherland first visited in 1934 and returned to with renewed energy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He began to make these large, ambitious paintings after being inspired by the strange natural phenomena he discovered in Pembrokeshire countryside. Rocks and tree roots are transformed into altar-like structures painted with intense, synthetic colours that accentuate their dreamlike or hallucinatory appearance.

Poetry emerges again with Ceri Richards' Cycle of Nature (1944) - a writhing mass of organic forms directly inspired by Dylan Thomas' poem The Force that through the green fuse drives the flower (1933).

In the centre of this gallery we see one of the museum's most important recent additions to the collection - Richard Long's Blaenau Fffestiniog Circle (2011). This powerful, elemental stone circle has been assembled from slates collected by the artist in Snowdonia and brings with it the sublime, mountainous landscape of North Wales directly into the gallery. …

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A Fine Romance; A Poem about Wales by American Beat Writer Allen Ginsberg Is the Starting Point of a New Exhibition Which Explores Modern Forms of Romanticism. It Is One of Two Major Displays Opening at National Museum Cardiff This Weekend. Curator Nicholas Thornton Reveals What Visitors Can Expect
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