Words on a wing.

Legends, in black and white.

The house is not visible from any approaching route. The Montgomeryshire topography obscures it completely. One of the reasons it has survived, some say. At the heart of the site the predominant sound is birdsong. On a cooling, clear, late spring night it’s not unusual to happen upon pheasant, baby rabbits and the occasional vole. If it’s an escape you seek, you’ve found it. 

Sunday 21 May 2017. Sundown. Tonight I thought about Paul Nash. About the room in which he slept, his particular vision and his view. Nash was the only visual artist to stay here in that period, I’m told. The others were writers, musicians and composers. In the Tate collections are monochrome photographs taken by Nash at Gregynog. They show the entrance, sunken lawn and bridge as they were in 1939. The bridge and lawn are pretty much unchanged. The light falls across the woodland backdrop, casting the trees in high contrast. The wood is protected now, many of its species rare and aged. Nash would have seen that same contrast at sundown, perhaps. Nash is today remembered not for his surreal and stylised landscapes and interiors but for his searing rendering of the carnage of the 1914-18 war.  He would have relished the quiet here, on the eve of fresh conflict. Gregynog can feel, at times, like the safest place on earth; a haven and retreat from an unpredictable world. It is a settled place; a place protected by an invisibility cloak of woodland and rolling hills. It is simply here, steady through the ages, solid and unflustered. Its surreal quality in the evening light-play was perhaps appealing to Nash in 1939. He had seen many conflict ravaged lands, populated by disoriented, frightened and damaged men. He had lived through one despicable ‘void of war’ and here was another one, just there, over the hills.  

I would like to know what you contemplated here Mr Nash. Your travels are well documented, your time at Dorset, Dymchurch and Iden, Florence, Pisa and Nice; your reluctant sojournment at Ypres. But your short time here is less well documented. I’m sure a less idle researcher will know more and that you will have come here at the invitation of remarkable individuals who extended their hospitality to many, in philanthropic endeavour. We know of your photographs, we have your painting of Gregynog, the bridge and the trees, in our national collection. And we have your name in the Gregynog visitors book. That is all.

Gregynog, Paul Nash, Collection National Museum Wales

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