On January 13, artists and performers from across Wales joined with academics from Cardiff University to celebrate Hen Galan, the old New Year’s Eve as marked by the Julian Calendar, which held sway throughout Britain until the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1752. Held in the National Museum of Wales the event was related to the exhibition ‘Silent Explosion: Ivor Davies and Destruction in Art’, which runs until March 20.
The event began with a series of short public lectures on seasonal rituals and their afterlives given by Dr Rob Gossedge and Prof Helen Phillips from the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, and Dr Juliette Wood from the School of Welsh. Juliette Wood gave a provocative cultural history of the Mari Lwyd, a South Walian tradition in which a horse’s skull, with flowing white sheet, and decorated with ribbons and costume jewellery and mounted on a pole, makes a procession around a town or village, demanding admittance into numerous households, via a pwnco, or singing competition. Rob Gossedge discussed other instances of ‘hooded animal’ and animal mask traditions from the medieval to modern periods, focussing particularly on elements of class antagonism. And Helen Phillips, in a discussion of various seasonal customs, including St Agnes’ Eve and November All Souls, contextualised a number of Ivor Davies’s 1960s happenings, including Adam on St Agnes’ Eve in terms of the continual reinvention of rituals.
The second part of the event was a specially ymateb, or response, to Ivor Davies’ Silent Explosion, designed by Chris Glynn and R.M. Parry. Featuring a Mari Lwyd designed by Alexa Mary Brown, the event recreated the Mari Lwyd pwnco as a dialogue between Ivor Davies’ exhibition and responses by contemporary artists and performers, including Glynn, Parry and Brown, along with Gareth Clubb, Lleucu Cooke, Guto Davies, Noori Davies, Rhodri Viney and Jon Gower.
Images from the ymateb appear below. For details of the forthcoming conference on Ivor Davies’ work, Burnt Poetry: Ivor Davies and Destruction/Creation in Art and Word, click on the relevant tab at the top of this screen.