'The hill farms of this border country are more than being just a romantic thing', says Alex Williams, as we sit in the pleasant parlour of the Bear Hotel, the firelight glinting on his silvery hair. 'They are also highly inventive and practical places. I love the practicality of, for example, my friend Glynn who can take an old washing machine and completely recycle it - the drum becomes a radiator protector on his tractor, the body, sawed round with a hacksaw, becomes a support for a 40 gallon oil drum. The electric motor becomes a grinder to sharpen tools with and the pump a fertiliser sprayer. Beyond the romanticism and charm there is this inventiveness and a sense of necessity and of austerity. It is this that, among other things, I've tried to record in my work.'
Alex has painted California and his native Surrey (X), but it is probably his Welsh paintings which have won him most friends both here and in the USA, where the bulk of his work has been exhibited and sold.
As yet only 40 (X), he wasn't born or reared in these parts but married into them, and loves them with all the passion of the convert. His wife Valmai, who he met at St Martins Art School in London, came from the much loved Honey Café at Bronllys, and when he visited down here to meet her family he seemed to have fallen in love with those parts to the North and West of the Black Mountains where he now lives.
Amongst his close friends are the renowned Mr James, Landlord of the Radnor Arms in Talgarth, and Richard Booth the 'King of Hay', with whom he has become much involved in attempts at decentralisation, and liberation of the countryside from the meddling of metropolitan bureaucrats.
'When I moved down here from Suburbia', he says, 'something ceased to travel with me. That something was my anguish and fear. I also ceased to be an abstract painter. The countryside here demanded to be represented with an urgency that could not be ignored. Since then, two things have been my salvation as a human being - my art, and the landscape of this Welsh border country.
Alex Williams's love of the austere world of the border hill farm shines through much of his work; his love of animals, especially the indigenous geese, hens, cows and Welsh mountain sheep, and his love of the poignantly ephemeral world of windowless abandoned farmhouses and of sagging corrugated iron structures decaying fast into rust.
The Honey Café houses a gallery containing an impressive permanent exhibition of his work. It is good that, through this exhibition in Hereford, his talents will become better known to those this side of the border.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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