Kyffin Williams || Qing Chao Ma

I can’t really do any better as a review than to quote David Wynn Meredith, Chairman of the Sir Kyffin Williams Trust: “No other artist and author has collated so many diverse examples of Sir Kyffin’s art in one publication with such coherence. This is a book put together with great care and purpose and written from the heart”. If it’s good enough for the Trust, it would be hard to quibble and you’d better have some good arguments.

David also contributes a foreword in which he recounts Qing Ma’s discovery of and research into Kyffin Williams’ work. Intriguingly, it turns out that there is a previous book, written in Mandarin and published in China – the great man’s work has nothing if not reach.

From the point of view of a review, all that’s really necessary to say is that the written material is thorough, beginning with a brief account of Williams’ life. It would be fair to say that “concise” might be a better word because all the information you need is here, but without extraneous detail. There may be another book to be written that adds colour and anecdote, but this is not it and Qing does well to stick to the broad outlines.

The rest of the book is roughly ordered: that’s to say there are sections on portraits and figures, landscapes, concept of art and, finally, quotations that amplify Williams’ view on topics from traditional art to abstraction. Separating widely different subjects makes a lot of sense, but trying to categorise beyond that can lead to curators tying themseleves in all kinds of knots. Qing is far too canny to fall into that trap.

The bulk of the book consists of the illustrations – a more than generous 270 of them in all. These are excellently reproduced and the book’s square format allows for variations of layout as well as accommodating different shapes and dimensions of the original without a sense of anything being condensed to fit the space. If you want to see the originals, captions include date (where known), dimensions and location – handily, those outside private collections are mostly either in the National Library of Wales or the Oriel Môn Gallery.

An artist of the stature of Kyffin Williams deserves a serious but also accessible study and this steps firmly up to that plate. To quote again from David Wynn Meredith, “This is a book to be treasured”.

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