Friday, September 12, 2014

Chalk marks cause a dust storm

Photo: Snowdon Mountain Guides

An artist has-with permission from the National Trust who own the land- created a  text mural upon a slab within Cwm Tregalan on the flanks of Yr Wyddfa (or Mount Snowdon as it’s known in English!) The work was created to promote a National Theatre of Wales production ‘The Gathering’ and is an extract from a poem by Wales’s national poet, Gillian Clarke. 

The work has created quite a brouhaha amongst many in the mountain fraternity, including many of my friends who have vented their displeasure through the social media. It resembles a similar art v nature debate a couple of years ago over in Yorkshire. Simon Armitage’s Stanza Stones project which caused passions to fly on the UKC forum. In that project, a local stone engraver, Pip Hall, had carved calligraphic text of six Armitage poems into slabs of rock at various locations around Ilkley Moor.

In the North Wales project, lines from Gillian Clarke’s poetry has been chalked onto the rock using natural clay product which is designed to be washed off after the play has finished. It’s strange how these things stimulate outrage in the outdoor community. See the Llanberis slate of the art project, or witness the contempt for mountain memorials and cairn waymarkers on the forums.

I find it strange because North Wales is hardly a pristine corner of Patagonia. It’s popular mountains are carved up with beaten tracks; the popular crags are polished and speckled with chalk. Yr Wyddfa itself has a bloody railway going up it and cafe resembling a Lidl supermarket on the summit for God’s sake! We look out from the tops to busy roads and wind farms. Many of the tracks we follow pass old workings and dissect fences and walls.  The land is virtually a sheep cropped monoculture, as natural as a window box in a city flat! It’s a mountain theme park in its way. A theme park which hasn’t developed organically, but which has been shaped by commerce. might sound like heresy but I don’t mind a bit of art in the great outdoors providing it has some creative merit. The sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy or David Nash appear to not just tolerated but acclaimed, even though they are usually sited in a natural setting. Often a setting which is lot more natural and unspoiled than a popular trail in Snowdonia. In fact, I’d like to see more art in the national park. Especially in those northern bounds which is suffering from overuse and which have become scarred and pitted by millions of pairs of boots. 

Gillian Clarke’s poetry graffiti on a small slab or a crocodile of walkers queuing up to touch Yr Wyddfa’s trig point on a summer’s bank holiday. No prizes for guessing which one I find uglier!

Photo: Snowdon Mountain Guides.

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