Summer in Wales

Summer in Wales
Marijke Braaksma

Anyone familiar with the landscape and traditional houses of Wales - especially SW Wales - will have admired surviving examples of the vernacular longhouse. Often built in the 17th century, these were long because they could accommodate both cattle and people. They featured thick walls, small windows and a single, wide door, which allowed entry for all the inhabitants, including stock. The house - and roof - were usually rendered with limewash, sometimes with added colour, using earth pigments which lent hues ranging from cream to pink, dark red and ochre. Today, the landscape of Wales still features ruined, neglected and well-restored examples of these distinctive structures. And here, in this picture, beneath the saturated blues and greens of mid-summer sky, sea, field and woodland, we are introduced to these houses which can lend a strange, Picturesque beauty and animation to the environment. Above all, perhaps, they provide a link to the ancient histories of Wales - one link in the long chain of human habitation which goes back to the Neolithic (4,400-2,300BC) and even the Mesolithic (10,000-4,400BC) periods.

There is more. Another prominent feature of the painting is the crow or raven, a bird which is laden with symbolism in many cultures. The Norse god, Odin, was accompanied by two ravens, signs of wisdom; carrying out the wishes of Odin are the Valkyries, represented by carrion-eating ravens, whose responsibility is to choose the best of the slain on the field of battle. The raven in Ancient Greek mythology was associated with the god Apollo. For Christians, the raven was the first to bring the signs of land - of hope - to Noah. In Celtic mythology, the warrior goddess, the Morrigan, appears in the form of crow or raven; in Welsh myth, the Mabinogion, the raven, is a harbinger of death or, in the form of Bran the Blessed, bearer of wisdom and knowledge. For Carl Jung, the raven evoked the dark side of the psyche, the bearer of esoteric secrets. Corvid symbolism, then, is permeated with both ambiguity and ambivalence: a totem of wisdom and of death. Hence, too, the Corvid is sometimes a token of the feminine, making reference to the primordial darkness of the womb, the link between generations, the bearer of knowledge.

Braaksma's picture, which can be enjoyed simply for its colour and vigorous execution, will reward frequent study. We are introduced to a Wales that is both real and mythic. We are introduced to a Corvid, almost flying out of the picture towards us and bringing with it intimations, omens, from the past and messages for the future. We are in the realms of myth, meaning, identity and imagination.

Acrylic on paper
Size Unframed:
15ins x 22½ins
38cms x 57cms
Size Framed:
23½ x 31ins
59.5cms x 78.5cms
Signed with initials and dated [20]09, lower right

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