Ty Isaf is not merely a postal address and a property of moderate grandeur and repute; it is also a work in progress, a collaboration between Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Peter Wakelin, their team of highly skilled workmen, and the various wild and domesticated beings they share the property with, including a small colony of pipistrelle bats in the attic and a noisy rookery in the treetops adjacent to the house.
I stayed there three of my six nights in Wales, and looking back through my photos of the trip, it’s obvious that Ty Isaf is the only Welsh place I got to know passably well. I’m somewhat ashamed of the photos I took elsewhere, which reveal a superficial engagement with a land and people typical of the tourist experience. The great Welsh poet (and believer in the via negativa) R. S. Thomas fulminated about the effect tourism can have on the betoured:
The serenity of their expression
revolts me, it is a pose
for strangers, a watercolor’s appeal
to the mass, instead of the poem’s
The fact that I chose not to rush about and see still more things while I was in Wales, in favor of (for example) taking naps so I’d better be able to appreciate what I did see, now strikes me as a wise strategy. Almost all the photos in this post were taken after one such afternoon nap.
Through the window in the second floor landing, it’s possible to see at least six different, iconic views of Wales: slate roof, garden, pasture, village, hill and pine.
A stuffed buzzard graces the landing, a former inhabitant of Ty Isaf who came a cropper of a power line.
The danger is clearly spelled out in two languages and a pictograph, but alas, nothing in the language of buzzards.
Horses are a presence inside and out, from the artist’s attic studio to the paddock and beyond.
A Shetland pony named Basil has wild blue eyes and an ungovernable hunger for things like the rear-view mirrors on automobiles. His access to the pasture must be carefully regulated lest he grow obese.
The pasture is guarded by an anthropomorphic horned figure, a gift from the sculptor Meri Wells.
The windows are aligned so that from the back of the house one can see clear through the front. But one may also be startled by the ghostly apparition of one’s own reflection emerging from the garden like some kind of Green Man figure.
Ty Isaf from behind is a complex marriage of angles, styles, and materials. Half hidden by the hill, the house seems nearly chthonic,
in contrast to the impression given by the blank canvasses of its front and side walls — its public face.
As one might expect, the interior spaces are inhabited by beautiful objects and works of art, but everywhere too the windows draw the visitor’s gaze to the world outside. I have no good photos of the extensive gardens, but suffice it to say that the boundary between art and nature at Ty Isaf is exceedingly permeable.