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There are few greater pleasures than spending an hour, or two, perusing and discovering works of art; gorging on colours and textures, meditating on concepts new and old. To hold, to witness the art in the form of an object, not merely a reproduction or an illusion on a screen, transforms a potentially passive experience into an intimate and engaging one. I eagerly anticipated enjoying such delights during my summer internship at the School of Art.
There, I was assigned the task of cataloguing recent acquisitions from Gwasg Gregynog, a recently closed printing press that was located near Newtown in Wales. Amongst the collection of prints were the suite of wood engravings produced by Colin See-Paynton for his book Of a Feather detailing and illustrating the collective nouns of birds. The prints were also exhibited at the MoMA Machynlleth from March to May of 2009, a decade ago this year.
Through my work I had the pleasure of getting a closer look at the prints. A vast and dizzying array of contrasting textures and patterns that evoke elements of nature in the form of stars and reflections on water, wind and billowing rushes coalesce to become the backdrops that dance with the swallows, weave amongst the wagtails; the birds an integral part of their environment. Each one was enchanting; I was mesmerised by their minute detail achieved through what must have been painstaking focus and precision. I was captive to their charm, which echoes through me still.
One evening I spoke of what I had been working with to my father-in-law who I then learned, after he ducked to another room and returned with a frame displaying a familiar and distinctive print of a bird, was also an admirer of See-Paynton. A special few among the prints won my heart, Crescent Moon, Parliament of Owls and Round of Wrens. These I wish I could display in my own home. Fortunately for students of the School of Art we are able to request access to view objects in the collection at any time, so that will have to do for now!