In the Valley

Ystrad Stories
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)
University of South Wales Art Collection Museum

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.

In the valley

Author: Gerhard Kress

Written in response to ‘In the Valley, No.4, No.7’ Ernest Zobole, (1962)
University of South Wales Art Collection Museum

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.

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