ref: iMq Mar 17-Apr 14 2012 WEST WALES ARTS CENTRE Michael Gustavius Payne, Mike Jenkins, Dim Gobaith Caneri - Open a 'pdf' of this press release - return to Galleries PR Index

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Art and Poetry Exhibition

Dim Gobaith Caneri (Welsh idioms and phrases)

Thanks to a grant from the Arts Council of Wales, a poet and a painter form Merthyr Tydfil

have created a collaborative exhibition which has been touring Wales. The exhibition by poet

and author Mike Jenkins and painter Michael Gustavius Payne, began in their home town at

Cyfarthfa Castle before visiting the Museum of Modern Art Wales in Machynlleth and the

Washington Gallery just outside Cardiff. The exhibition will now be ending at Fishguard’s

West Wales Arts Centre on 14th April 2012.

The exhibition, titled Dim Gobaith Caneri”, meaning no hope like a canary, includes

paintings together with prose-poetry on the walls from a prose-poetry and micro-fiction

booklet also available at the exhibition. The theme of the exhibition uses ideas inspired by

traditional Welsh idioms and phrases to explore issues relevant to Wales and the world today.

The artists have responded to each exhibition space independently when considering how to

hang the work best. Jenkins explains we always intended the prose-poetry and micro-fiction

to work together with the painting, rather than one art form being a response to the other. The

paintings are not illustrations of the text and the prose-poetry and micro-fiction are not

descriptions of the images.

The initial concept for the project began at an Open Mic Poetry Night in Merthyr Tydfil during

2009, the poet and painter discussed, and decided to develop a collaborative project. Both

have lived in Merthyr for over 30 years, with a similar political ideology and views on the

Welsh language. Payne explained that our general motivation already seemed quite similar

but we decided that this new work would also need a specific focus. We chose something that

we’d both grown up alongside, being both very familiar with its sounds and heritage but also

continually new and vibrant in words and imagery; something we both have a strong interest

in. We decided to use Welsh idioms and phrases as a binding link between our work. Both

artists came from English language backgrounds in Wales but decided to learn the Welsh

language and send their children through Welsh medium education.

The overall theme of the exhibition is emphasised by its title: Dim Gobaith Caneri; no hope

like a canary. The idiom refers to the old mining practice where canaries were once taken into

mines as an early warning system, to alert miners of the presence of toxic gases. If the

canary dropped down dead it would alert the miners. The references to the Valleys and coal

mining in particular is obvious but the use of various Welsh language idioms and other details

also give the exhibition a Wales wide focus, in a global context: bankers profits, ecology, the

use of fossil fuels, etc. are all questioned within an exploration of the theme Dim Gobaith

Caneri. Jenkins explains that “in the current global economic circumstances we could see a

clear parallel: the canary could be seen to represent the continuing struggle and oppression

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of many people, while those that caused the crisis; namely the bankers, are allowed a free

rein by the Government, and are still thriving with their bonus culture. The presence of

animals and birds in a number of Welsh idioms has also inspired a consideration of nature

and the planet in the exhibition. Payne elaborates; “the manner in which human-beings exploit

the planet, also refers back to the Dim Gobaith Caneri idea. The canary represents nature

and is portrayed as a victim predominantly but then the coal and the mountain also represent

nature in the wider context. The symbolic significance of the coal or the mountain is

ambiguous. Just like real life, we don’t always know what the full consequences of our actions

will be: Our long term actions could be disastrous for us but the mountain will still remain.

Dim Gobaith Caneri by Mike Jenkins

I am the No Hope Canary, singing in the deepest gallery. Below vaults of borrowed money.

Trees rot eventually, become coal. But what of these notes; surely they will explode.

These last years I have sung and people say Listen how tunefully! They do not hear truly.

If they did, they would find a seam of sorrow there.

I am left in my cage: no up and down. My beak a useless tool against iron.

Dim........the lights are leaving. Who will listen, even when I stop my singing?

Gobaith has shine, but here the only gleams on damp rock.

The seep of gas from above, from those vaults: the steep banks of paper carcases.

I am the No Hope Canary, dumb in the deepest gallery.

Final Tour Date: The West Wales Arts Centre; 17th March 14th April 2012.


Mike Jenkins’ website:

MG Payne’s website:

Mike Jenkins’ biography on Literature Wales:


Pictures Jpeg versions and more images are available direct from MG Payne (contact form

available on website

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Mike Jenkins (left) and MG Payne (right) at Ffôs Y Fran opencast mine.

MG Payne A Ddwg Wy, A Ddwy Fwy (Steal an egg, steal more) - Oil on canvas


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MG Payne Am y Tywydd, Gorau Tewi (It’s best to keep quiet about the weather) Oil on

canvas - 127x102cm

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MG Payne - Blwyddyn o Eira, Blwyddyn o Lawndra (A year of snow, a year of plenty) - Oil on

canvas - 127x96cm