‘Poet Portraits’ is a year-long project I embarked on in November 2005 to paint twenty poets with strong connections to Wales.
My list includes leading figures in contemporary Welsh literature in both languages, among them Wales' first National Poet Gwyneth Lewis, Dannie Abse, Twm Morys, Director of Academi Peter Finch, recently appointed editor of Poetry Wales Zoe Skoulding and her predecessor Robert Minhinnick. Rising stars Owen Sheers, and Samantha Rhydderch have also been sought out, along with Hilary Llewellyn-Williams, Christopher Meredith, Paul Groves, Grahame Davies, Tony Curtis, Paul Henry, Pascale Petit, Tim Liardet, Patrick McGuinness, Meic Stephens, Christine Evans, and Catherine Fisher.
I wanted Poet Portraits to be a snapshot of a particular time in Welsh literature. I deliberately included writers in both languages; men and women; the up-and-coming with the established; those who choose to work in Wales and those who have moved away.
My portrait of Twm Morys has been purchased by the National Library of Wales, and that of Grahame Davies by Wrexham Borough Council to hang in Plas Pentwyn, the newly-opened arts centre in Grahame's home village Coedpoeth. Dannie Abse has recently been bought by a private collector.
The exhibition opened at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff in December 2006, and has toured across Wales and to the Welsh Assembly Government Offices in Brussels.
Sandy Nairne, when he was Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London issued a statement: "The Poet Portraits exhibition demonstrates the importance of contemporary portraiture in Wales and how the idea of the Hall of Fame can be refreshed and invigorated for new generations."
An accompanying book, Poet Portraits | Portreadau Beirdd has been published by Seren. The book includes an essay by myself outlining the motives and impulses behind the project. Art critic and lecturer Dr Anne Price-Owen has written an Introduction which places my work in a wider context. The poets themselves have generously contributed a poem each to accompany their portrait. The book is available through bookshops or from the publisher's website here