Words (2013- )

Iwan Bala’s artwork has always been about ideas that come from lived experience and from reading. He sees the drawings and artworks he produces as a result of his research, his ‘Fieldnotes’. In a sense, the drawings become ‘anthropology from the inside’. During 2011 and 2012 Iwan Bala has worked with poet Menna Elfyn in a collaborative endeavour to bring words and image together in a creative dialogue that explores their personal Fieldnotes. He is now working with poetry from the centuries of Welsh tradition, and with poets such as Twm Morys, a ‘bard’ and master of the craft of cynghanedd. Bala perceives the language, and the poetry in it, as the inner landscape of Wales.
Maps and diagrams are at once didactic learning aides and works of art in their own right. The meanings they contain are in constant flux. Despite their implied certainty – there is often a subtext, an error in translation, gaps, omissions, terra incognita, which is open to interpretation. This is a serious issue in Wales and other marginalized cultures, the names of places; towns, villages, farms and houses are translated or lost by re-naming. But these place-names are not only for the postman, they chart ancient histories, legends, stories and meanings that are the making of a people – a common bond of understanding is irretrievably eroded. Bala’s research in the books left by his parents, where pages are annotated, texts highlighted, poetry selected for lectures or presentations (both his parents were teachers). Sol Ffa notations, verses and numbers from his mother’s hymnbook, which she would practice for the chapel organ on the piano at home; hymns he remembers singing in the congregation as a youth, that still remain easily in his memory. He is paying homage to a tradition that is on the wane, by delving into the traces and remnants of his parents' cultural world.
These drawings on rough Khadi paper, inscribed with charcoal, bamboo pens and Indian ink, are fragile and raw, and they emulate the process of creativity. Scratched out and erased words, replaced by others, partly hidden and palimpsest in nature. Rubbing out and re-working is visible, so the work contains the history of it’s own making, the process revealed as in the pages of a writers note books.