The RS Thomas Triptych

"The triptych was recently shown at the "RS Thomas Celebration" at Bangor University and the Welsh National Gallery in Cardiff. The painting took two years to resolve and complete. I have over the last 5 to 10 years referred to RS Thomas a number of times in my work but never realised the extent of my absorption in the nature of his poetry.

I began the painting as I always do, in search of new aesthetics or what I like to call "new life". On this occasion however, I was in search of more. I felt the need to create a work of greater substance, greater challenge. I began to realise that all the previous works were somehow stepping stones towards this one, a process you can't contrive, you can only do what you do: search.

Gradually as the triptych form was realised I began to understand that this painting was in search of RS but I didn't know all the questions I was setting myself and how I would realise the answers. Many months went by when I couldn't look at the painting never mind do anything to it. Reading more of RS and walking those places he walked in the Welsh mountains seemed the only way forward but it doesn't tell you how to paint, it can only fill you with an insight, an understanding, an energy. Even within the last few days of its completion I was ready to scrap it, rip it up, throw it away as a contrived intervention.

The more I reflected upon the work the more I realised the problem , that it had created its own language, its own content, its own agenda, its own "new life" and that it was complete but it wasn't focused on the poetry of RS Thomas but the person, the poet, the artist.

The questions however, are still there: how can you begin to resolve reality in abstraction, how can you hope to come close to something specific with the non-specific, how can you realise something about another human being with paint on a two dimensional surface but of course you can, its just that you cant plan it, it comes when you are ready and that's when you least expect it."
Terry Duffy 2000




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