Visual Arts | New works by Elfyn Jones

Ryan Glyndwr Davies travelled to Ffin y Parc Gallery, Llanrwst to witness an exhibition of new works by Elfyn Jones.

Ffin Y Park Gallery is a specialist welsh art dealership based in grand country house settings on the outskirts of Llanrwst. Ffin y Parc has been respectfully restored by the present owners to create a historic, yet contemporary, venue that subtly presents, rather than overwhelms works on show, in this case by the artist Elfyn Jones, RCA.

Elfyn Jones
The Watchers by Elfyn Jones

One has to be careful when approaching an Elfyn Jones painting as not all as it seems. Elfyn Jones is an artist driven by the creative pursuit as opposed to the end point of the finished painting. He is more concerned by the process, the secret ingredient, as opposed to the end product. To guide us in our interpretation of these forty plus works on show the narrative informs:

‘The paintings hover between abstraction and figuration, allowing the viewer to find a meaning which relates to their own un-shareable experience.’

This juxtaposition of abstraction and figuration is no doubt a product of the artists’ process led approach to his work. To what extent then is the viewer able to find connection with the works on show?

The artist applies a draughtsmanship that is simplistic in nature yet that is blended with a finely balanced, neutral palette to produce paintings that have an almost ethereal quality. These are paintings at a state of flux, verging on the abstract to figurative. This approach draws out familiar outlines and fragments of a person or object that seem to almost break free of the canvas. You sense that the painting you see is a mere snapshot, a fleeting zenith-like moment of capture, before the image you see could almost dissolve into the background.

These paintings are more prose-like in look and feel. They have an ambiguity; a hidden depth that is difficult to pin down, yet that is palpable. You feel the artist has brought into being objects from his subconscious. You feel that these paintings depict the end of a creative journey of discovery; you feel the artist has arrived at their conclusion through sense and knowing. This end is our beginning as we are then invited to apply our own interpretation and derive our own meaning.

However, you do feel that these paintings weren’t purely painted without motive. There is a distinct recurring theme at play here. The subject matter and, although effective, the palette, are replayed, repeated, reapplied time and time again. It seems the artist has reworked several images that each started at the same point. You sense that if you were to distil the paintings down to their constituent parts you suspect the overall ingredients would be limited. For this reason the individual titles sit a little uneasy with the paintings. It is better to immerse yourself in the image as opposed to seeking absolute direction from the title of the piece.

It is difficult to relate or empathise uniquely with all the paintings, as some in the series are very similar, though others on show are very distinct. The smaller paintings in particular struggle to keep pace with the more grandiose images on show and serve merely to play a supporting role to these cast leads. Having said this the more notably pieces, for example Poet ii, succeed in carrying the day.

This is an artist who knows how to apply simple colours and yet achieve maximum effect and who seeks to make his own statement away from the modern mainstream and this is to be commended. A bold and adventurous show that is willing to take a few risks.