There are so many creative people in Pembrokeshire, producing a variety of work, that we are never short of really interesting people and projects to write about.
The contrast is truly astonishing, from artists who work in very traditional materials , producing beautiful work that we recognise instantly, to work that has hidden meaning that reveals itself over time.
There are artists whose work dissolves, or falls apart, or returns to the earth, magical in its impermanence. There are people working in metals and stone and clay and there is Richard Blacklaw-Jones, who works to bring a whole new life out of stuff that we have carelessly discarded as rubbish.
Originally from Liverpool where his Welsh-speaking family looked after a chapel, he met and married his wife in London, where they both worked for the police force.
In 1991 Richard and his family moved to Haverfordwest. “I had been to University in Wales, studying Geography.” He grins and opens his hands , “I had had a great time but I hadn’t worked very hard. I went onto work as a Police officer in London and then to train as an Osteopath. It’s my work as a Body Therapist and Yoga teacher that has earned me the title Jones the Bones around here.”
The move to Haverfordwest gave the Blacklaw-Jones family the space and peace they wanted. “This is a lovely place for children to grow up,” Richard tells me and he is sure his children will agree.
Always practical and creative, Richard had turned his hand over the years to making what he calls, ‘bits of furniture’, but in 2000 he found himself on a beach with his children inspecting a pile of rubbish.
“I remember thinking, perhaps we can do something with that. It was useful to be involved in cleaning the beach and when we got home I began to make a picture out of some of the rubbish we had sifted through and decided to keep.”
It was the start of a whole new creative project for Richard that has developed and refined into a passion. Beginning with glass and then copper and bronze he moved on to slate and then plastics and paper. As his palette expanded he had his light bulb moment. Realising he was a Pop Artist was liberating and removed constraints. He has gone on to exhibit and sell his vibrant work all over the country.
“I love colour,” he tells me , showing me the variety of his work starting with the earliest pieces that he created to catch the light and Verdigris copper images of subtle hues. “My work has developed into different strands but it all makes use of material I have found. About 99% of it comes from beaches but occasionally my eye is drawn to something on the pavement that I just have to collect and use.”
Richard is delighted that efforts are being made to clean up the detritus that human beings just drop wherever they go. He tells me that on a recent trip to Newgale he found almost nothing , but it’s not the same everywhere. On a recent trip to Liverpool he was at Crosby beach where Anthony Gormley has his sculptures. Just north of there, he tells me, is a treasure trove for someone like himself. He is working on a Beatles inspired series following that trip and has plans for another visit in November to gather more materials.
“I am delighted to be deprived of resources, but while they are available I will continue to repurpose stuff that has been discarded. It all embodies energy. I rarely go out without bringing back a bag of material that will have a whole new life as a work of art. I work mainly in the abstract , but I do also create more representational pieces. I know the look I want from the material I collect. Sometimes it’s plastics that have degraded and images can be scratched on them, sometimes its letters on paper or card. Sometimes it is a particular colour, and for a piece I was doing on Haverfordwest I found a broken children’s bucket with an image of a castle on it.” He indicates a picture on the wall of his living room.
I look about Richard’s tidy home. He must have a lot of materials stored. I am curious about how Richards family feel about him returning home with bags of things the rest of us have thrown away.
He laughs, “My wife calls my storage areas, Steptoe’s Junk Yard. I try to only bring home what I will use immediately, but it does have to be contained. I have an outside area and a room on the top floor of the house where I keep materials and the entrance hall is my studio.”
That entrance hall, was also the site of his first exhibition, Rock House Goes Pop and he is planning another exhibition for November 10th 2018 that will be titled Rock House Takes a Pop. He is also involved in Breaking out of the Gallery, a project to bring art out onto the streets of Haverfordwest for everyone to experience.
“ We are all looking at the world and wringing our hands, Richard says seriously, “There is no such thing as common animals any more. The kind of creatures, like hedgehogs, insects and birds that I knew as a child are dying out. We love the lifestyle that we now enjoy but it is also destroying us. As a species we are going to have more and more time on our hands in the future. Finding ways to be creative seem essential to me. I wish I could do this full-time. I see so much rubbish, and I want to draw attention to it, to repurpose it, to say something about the world and to give that mess a new meaning, a new lease of life.”
Richard donates 10 % of all the sales of his work to The Morgan Parry Foundation. Morgan Parry was the Chair of the Countryside Council for Wales when he died suddenly a couple of years ago. A foundation has been set up to continue his work on education for sustainable use and distribution of resources for all.
To see more of Richards work go to his Facebook page or visit his gallery in St Dogmaels, Oriel LLandudoch at High St, St Dogmaels, SA43 3EJ. Opening times variable, check Facebook page Oriel Llandudoch.
He is involved with the cooperative, SPARK at High St, H’west, open 10.00am till 4.00pm weekdays and Saturdays on Haverfodwest High street where some of his smaller items can be found.
Rock House Takes a POP ! is open 10.00am Saturday 10th November @Rock House,H’west, SA61 2JE.