In the Valley

Uncategorized
In the Valley No.4 No.7 Ernest Zobole 1962

In the Valley, No.4, No.7, Ernest Zobole, 1962

In the Valley

Author: Ann Davies

Written in response to ‘In the Valley, No.4, No.7’ Ernest Zobole, (1962)

The mist is draped like a blanket over the land, it is dark and damp. There are distant sounds as the heavy laden coal trams traverse the incline to divulge their contents onto the slurry tip reigning supreme on the mountainside.

The gas street lights glisten like diamonds in the coal blackness. A Hooter sounds, its rhythm is short, no alarm – the shift is over. The Banks man engages the gears to raise the pithead cage from the innermost depths of the mine bringing the miners safely to the surface.  Silently the men make their way home. Will is soaked from the underground workings; all he can think of is to lie down in front of a welcome fire. He is too tired; the fire becomes embers. A soul departs.

The river at the valley bed meanders on its way; some children have lost their lives in the blackened whirlpool within as dark dust from the slurry tip is whipped up by the strong winds. No washing tomorrow it whispers. The dankness lingers long.

In her sleep a Mother laments the thought that her only son will join the Air Force. She knows her two daughters will go into Domestic Service.

Her husband touches her shoulder gently; he doesn’t want his son to go down the mine – or dig tunnels in a distant field in Flanders as he did. There must be something more.

Dawn breaks as if emerging into life with a blink; uncertain of its future role.

Ystrad Rhondda

Uncategorized
Ystrad Rhondda Ernest Zobole 1957

Ystrad Rhondda, Ernest Zobole, 1957

Ystrad Rhondda

Author: Gerhard Kress

Written in response to ‘Ystrad Rhondda’ Ernest Zobole, (1957)

his blue period, dark blue, no danger of being overwhelmed by bright colours. perhaps the artist Zobole doesn’t do that. all is framed by two lines that eventually, but outside the picture, are destined to meet, were it not for a tall, wooden electricity pole, forcing my eyes back where the real tension is grouped around an empty bit of street.

it’s the expectancy of people on both sides, on their opposing pavements. most of them stationary but for two women in the bottom left corner on their way to the bottom right corner. perhaps they’ll walk out of the frame not concerned with the imminent arrival of that ‘something’ that is suggested to happen without hinting at, what it may be. and then there is a woman, standing and, like the wooden pole opposite, guarding to prevent my eyes from escaping the uncomfortable tension. there is both, stillness and tension. groups of two and three is as much interaction as I detect, with the exception of a boy holding on to the skirt of a woman who herself is holding in her arms a small, blonde child.

I am looking at this painting for a long time. not for what I can see but for what isn’t there. and I’m oscillating between wanting to know about the coming event, however fleeting it might be and feeling a slight dread as to the apparent disconnectedness of the onlookers, arbitrarily meeting in this gathering. in contrast I imagine bright sunshine and smiling faces.

The School Railings

Uncategorized
Figures with a Pram in a Street - Ystrad Ernest Zobole c1948-50

Figures with a Pram in a Street – Ystrad, Ernest Zobole, c1948-50

The School Railings

Author: Jean Bentley

Written in response to ‘Figures with a Pram in a Street – Ystrad’ Ernest Zobole, (c1948-50)

From a distance the painting of the lower reaches on Penrhys Road with its protective railings, reminded me of the old Ynyshir Infants School which my granddaughters attended in the 1990’s. The ladies in the picture with a pram are synonymous of any infant school gates at any time during history. I recall those halcyon days when visiting my family at Ynyshir and trudging up the never-ending hill to wait by the playground railings with other mothers, fathers or, like me, grannies.

Whilst waiting for the school bell, I observed the painted hopscotch grid in one corner of the yard, and a ladder that snaked its way before, satisfying the little ones who waited for their older siblings.

The doors opened and the little ones tumbled out when the teachers saw each child’s mother. “There’s my Nanny.” Christine called running towards me. A year or two passed and Catherine was in the baby’s class and played in the hopscotch grid, or stepped on each painted rung of the wavy ladder, patiently waiting until 3:30 when the older children emerged and we plodded down the hill again. If my daughter was with us, Christine took her hand at the kerb where the lady in bright yellow held up her lollypop in the middle of the road so that we could cross safely. Catherine took my hand and we skipped along the pavement singing.

Isn’t it wonderful to be grandmother, for you can do things not dreamed of at any other time of your life – and it doesn’t matter.

In the Valley

Uncategorized
In the Valley No.4 No.7 Ernest Zobole 1962

In the Valley, No.4, No.7, Ernest Zobole, 1962

In the valley

Author: Gerhard Kress

Written in response to ‘In the Valley, No.4, No.7’ Ernest Zobole, (1962)

he was standing for the green party when last I saw Justin and shortly after he fell with them too. that wasn’t the end. the Arnolfini, a place crammed with arty books not easily found in assembly in this breadth and quantity. here I saw it, the book of photographs taken with an array of cameras he’d made himself. same principle as my own camera. take a shoe box, paint the inside dull black, make it light impenetrable save for one hole pricked by a needle, cover with black sticky tape. insert light sensitive paper, place in front of object of interest in good light, temporarily remove sticky tape, keep it still for 3 minutes.

where does Zobole’s painting come in? my immediate reaction to it was: teeth. my pin hole camera is too big, but Justin made it fit inside his mouth. the resulting picture shows his teeth, – enormous. and the landscape beyond, – small. Zobole’s teeth, and I don’t suggest these are meant to be teeth, are coal-black. in his ‘beyond’ is a blue figure of a naked female. she is dwarfed by black shapes behind and above her. the scene suggests houses, lights, a street. essentially only red and blue appear, but as in many Zobole paintings, black dominates. it’s the black of the river taf, the black of dust settling on the washing lines all over the valley and it’s the black the children, women and men have carried back on their skin in days – now long gone.

Ernie Zobole and the Square

Uncategorized
Llwynypia, Ernest Zobole, c1953

Llwynypia, Ernest Zobole, c1953

Ernie Zobole and the Square

Author: Rob Cullen

Written in response to ‘Llwynypia’ Ernest Zobole, (c1953)

In the beginning there was no square it was just a tram stop. Later on there was a “zebra crossing” on Partridge Square. There were no zebras. The tips overlooking Ynyscynon and Pontrhondda stood higher than the houses. A street lamp stood in the centre of a square that was never a square. The old tin shed Saint Cynon’s Church on one corner never stood on the corner of the square that was never a square. And some people of the square were strangers to reality too. Old man Christmas, a foundling left at the workhouse door that loomed over the square was given a job, lived and died in the place he’d been found that became a hospital. Hospitable. Poor mad Mansel stood directing traffic until he caused too many accidents and was taken away. “Nancy” boy Lewis 6 foot 6 inches and size 6 shoes. A retired copper of a gay persuasion ran the grocery shop on one corner and wrong changed you with a smile. Jack Fish the betting office next door with its black and white sign for dog biscuits on the pine end wall and opaque windows preventing wives looking in to see their husbands laying bets with the milk money. Prim and proper Owen’s Grocers on the other corner and everything weighed to the exact ounce by the thin hands of Deunwen. And the mock Chinese pagoda bus shelter complete with ladies and gents toilets absent too. A square named after a bird that nobody had ever seen on a square that was never a square. In reality a legendary provocation to the tyranny of perspective.

Penrhys

Uncategorized
Penrhys, Ernest Zobole, c1951

Penrhys, Ernest Zobole, c1951

Penrhys

Author: Jimmy Browne

Written in response to ‘Penrhys’ Ernest Zobole, (c1951)

So many things are over-analysed and subjected to being described in official, ‘correct’ terminology these days. Well, alright, perhaps in days gone by things were sometimes too little analysed and terms used unfairly and in a hurtful way but there must be a balance to be struck somewhere. Nowadays, people don’t complain of “feeling a bit down today, that’s all”. No, its straight to the doctor for “something for depression”.

Sometimes, when a day at work left me ‘feeling a bit down’ I would give the bus a miss and walk home over Penrhys. The road up from Tylorstown is steep but there’s no law that says you can’t stop for a short rest if you feel the need. Eventually, the Rugby Club passes by on the left and the Cemetery on the right and the roundabout at the entrance to Penrhys is reached. There the joy of being able to look back down the road to the Fach and see the road ahead sloping downwards to the Fawr, is enough to begin to raise the spirits. You can even treat yourself to a little joke; “well, its really all downhill from here.”

With a new spring in your step, you can now lift your head and look across the valley below, from Tonypandy up to Treorchy. Of course you can, yes, I’m telling you, that really is the Parc and Dare you can see.

Depression, doctor’s, do me a favour, I was just feeling a bit down, that’s all.

Some trees and snow

Uncategorized
Some Trees and Snow, Ernest Zobole, 1978

Some Trees and Snow, Ernest Zobole, 1978

Some Trees and Snow

Author: Rob Cullen

Written in response to ‘Some Trees and Snow’ Ernest Zobole, (1978)

The painting is of an Ystrad, Rhondda night time view. And beneath the puffed white clouded sky the tree bloomed slopes of Glyncornel covered in snow is dissected by the New Road and studded by the orange reflection of neon on the white road and the elm trees planted at regular intervals. An old style green train runs like a long spangled snake along the valley floor. It could be going or coming to Cardiff. Or to and from the outside world. Each compartment is lit with the yellow glow of night time. Imaginations realm. Maybe it’s a dreamscape made unreal.

Between the road and the railway the river flows. The river is not shown but hidden by the suggestion of slag heaps. The valley floor is wide here. Once river meadows stretched from Ystrad to Pontrhondda and fields of hay, wheat and barley were grown. When I was a child between the river and the road the tumbled down stone walls still marked the outline of the Lilly White, an old mill. A mill race that still flowed deep and still. A place we dared each other to wade. Our shorts rolled as high as they could go. In the fluid murk, water-scorpions fed on tadpoles and dragon fly nymphs prayed on our toes.

But where did Ernie play as a child? Maybe the Lamb Woods in Bodringallt. Maybe always on the outside looking in. Always standing at the doorway as if he is neither here nor there. Maybe he plays in dream.

Penrhys

Uncategorized
Penrhys, Ernest Zobole, c1951

Penrhys, Ernest Zobole, c1951

Penrhys

Author: Rob Cullen

Written in response to ‘Penrhys’ Ernest Zobole, (c1951)

The black spoils of Gelli Colliery heaped on the hilltop of Nant y Gwyddon dominates the landscape. Three women stand on either side of lower Penrhys Road. Three women are dressed in dark blue coats and dark hats of a certain style, of a certain age. It could be a Sunday but one has a shopping bag that looks empty. The valley sides are green. The tree growing on the side of the road is in leaf so the time of year is either late spring or early summer. And time stands still.

I consider the three women knowing that their coats will waft with the smell of camphor, of mothballs intermixed with Lilly of the Valley, and Rose scented hand soap or maybe carbolic. Memories are raised of that time of austerity when the pre-war style of clothing was still worn. And everything was gabardine. Dark brown or grey or navy. Or coats of blue or black heavy wool worn throughout the year and through the warmest of summers. There was a slowness of time.

Apart from maroon red Rhondda busses there were few cars. People walked the roads, would meet and chat or gossip in no particular hurry. It was a time of full employment – male employment – few men would be seen during the hours of the working day. But when clocking off time came they would teem and rush off the trains and busses and the village would take on another life. And then night time. That other time.

Ystrad Rhondda

Uncategorized
Ystrad Rhondda Ernest Zobole 1957

Ystrad Rhondda, Ernest Zobole, 1957

Ystrad Rhondda

Author: Jimmy Browne

Written in response to ‘Ystrad Rhondda’ Ernest Zobole, (1957)

It was a sunny but cold morning and the street was busy with mothers, some fathers too but mostly mothers, taking younger children to school; older children going in small groups to the big schools; and busy early morning traffic. Now they were all stopped in helpless anxiety and fear, except for those with the younger children who were shepherding them quickly away from the scene. “She just didn’t seem to see the car, just rushed out into the road. I think she was trying to catch the bus.” The woman spoke to the two police officers almost in a whisper, as if to speak louder would be somehow disrespectful to the elderly lady sprawled out in the middle of the road being given urgent treatment by the ambulance crew.

A younger, more distressed voice, came from behind me. “That’s my Nan, that’s my Nan!” I turned to see three teenage girls in school uniform. Two of them were clinging to the third who kept repeating the same words “That’s my Nan, that’s my Nan”, the words strangled by emotion and washed by tears flowing down a too white and disbelieving face. One of a second ambulance crew overheard and hurried to help the young girl, by now deeply in shock. The other crew member was treating the driver of the car that had struck the girl’s Nan; a man in his forties and as deeply in shock as the teenage schoolgirl. Next day, nearby railings covered with flowers.

 

Picture Story

Uncategorized
Some Trees and Snow, Ernest Zobole, 1978

Some Trees and Snow, Ernest Zobole, 1978

Picture Story

Author: Vera Button

Written in response to ‘Some Trees and Snow’ Ernest Zobole, (1978)

The picture of the train with mountains rising up from it, reminded me of when we traveled with a circus in South Africa and all the artistes lived on the train. Our wagon was always at the back of the train and it was very old, wooden and had a balcony at the rear, a bit like the old westerns era type.  Our family had one half of one wagon which consisted of three whole compartments and a half, plus the ‘luggage’ racks area which became part of the kitchen. Many of the places we visited were named after the beautiful areas of Scotland, England and Wales and they really did look like them. They were probably named by people from those areas in the first place.

Once, when we were going through the Drakensburg Mountains, we had fabulous vistas and scenery to take your breath away. Sometimes we had two engines on the front and the whole train would be linked, and as it was almost a mile long we’d be able to see the rest of it when on the bends and climbing. Once, it became too much for the engines, so they stopped, and uncoupled our wagons, leaving us parked on the side of the mountain until an engine could be sent back to ‘rescue’ us! Zobole’s picture reminded me of this episode.

We had many exciting adventures including a train crash in the Kruger National Park and amazingly, this painting revived many of them.