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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Eisteddfod art turns political
Ifor Davies, Yr Ysgrifen ar y Mur I: Dinistr Iaith a Chymuned.
Davies' said communities are being destroyed, too
National Eisteddfod fine art gold medal winner Ifor Davies has said he will give his 3,000 winnings back to the Welsh cultural festival.

Davies won the prize as the festival began its second full day of competition at St Davids, Pembrokeshire.

And he has defended the creative impulse behind his striking, destructive winning work.


This is a picture of a world where old and valuable things that are worth more than money are torn apart and shattered

Ifor Davies
Whilst artists are usually known for making things, Davies did the opposite, sawing in half his family bible and stabbing it with a mangled 19th century shotgun, an heirloom from his grandfather.

Ahead of formally receiving the gold medal in a ceremony on Monday, the artist has pledged to return his 3,000 winnings to the National Eisteddfod organisation.

He will donate 600 each year for five years in a gesture designed to establish a new prize for politically motivated artists.

His own work, "Yr Ysgrifen ar y Mur I: Dinistr Iaith a Chymuned" (The Writing on the Wall: The Destruction of Language and Community), has already provoked strong views.

But the shocking meaning behind Davies' piece is not so much in the immediate as in the Penarth-based artist's cultural intentions.

National Eisteddfod - flower girl
Traditional folk customs are displayed at eisteddfodau
His destruction of cherished, invaluable objects demonstrates the spirit of threatened Welsh communities means much more than the material, he explained.

"A family bible is one of the most valued things in old Welsh communitities and to saw such a precious thing is like an act of sacrilege," he said.

"I took my grandfather's gun from the 1850s to a local factory and asked a Cardiff factory to saw it into 10 pieces."

Destroyed bible

The beautiful, engraved antique firearm now stabs through the heart of the bible, ripped and fixed to sack cloth.

Davies added he deliberately wanted the gun to appear to tear the bible in half.

Hill
Welsh life is threatened, many believe
It is an image which has shocked many visitors to the art and crafts stalls on the maes at St Davids, which is hosting the annual festival for the first time.

"It's more dismaying to see the destruction of the Welsh language and communities we are seeing at the moment.

"I'm talking about a situation which is going on at the moment where communities are being disintegrated."

Language debate

The artist told BBCi Wales' new eisteddfod arts and crafts website: "Our language and our communities are facing a new threat.

"This is a picture of that world, with those old and valuable things that are worth more than money being torn apart and shattered."

Last year's eisteddfod was dogged by a row over the affect non-Welsh speaking migrants were having on traditional Welsh heartlands.

The debate has far from subsided, with activist groups calling on the Welsh Assembly to introduce planning bans on second home ownerships.

Davies said his work does not refer specifically to English settlers.

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 ON THIS STORY
Ifor Davies, artist
"To destroy a bible is an act of sacrilege"

Where I Live, South West Wales
See also:

11 Jul 02 | Wales
09 Jul 02 | Wales
26 Oct 01 | Wales
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