Friday 20 Dec 2013
A commemorative sculpture of the late, great Ray Gravell was unveiled by BBC Cymru Wales today.
The portrait in bronze was created by John Meirion Morris and depicts "Grav" in his role as a broadcaster. It will be on permanent exhibition in the reception area of BBC Wales in Cardiff, alongside figurative busts of fellow Welsh greats Carwyn James and Ryan Davies.
Professional sculptor John Meirion Morris was born – and is now based – in Llanuwchllyn near Bala. He was commissioned to create the piece as a permanent tribute to the accomplished rugby player from Mynydd-y-Garreg who became a familiar and much-loved presenter on BBC Wales services.
John Meirion Morris, said: "When I heard that I'd been chosen to make a portrait of Ray Gravell, I was more than pleased – I felt it to be an honour.
"Naturally, I appreciated him as a powerful rugby player for the Scarlets, for Wales and the Lions, but also as an enthusiastic presenter on television in Welsh and English, where he showed a genuine interest in people.
"I was lucky enough to meet him at the National Eisteddfod in 1997 at Bala, while I was making a portrait head in clay of the poet, Nesta Wyn Jones. One day, Ray approached me in a most unusual manner while I was working on the head. He came in, looked at the portrait head in astonishment, then smiled directly at me and took hold of both of my hands and said in Welsh: 'dyma'r dwylo' (these are the hands) with a genuine appreciation of the work. He was obviously fascinated with the process of modelling a head in clay. His warmth and his genuine response and his enthusiasm were exceptional.
"The experience of meeting Ray in 1997 proved to be crucial and invaluable to the task of modelling the portrait head in clay from photographs. I do hope the quality and expression of the portrait head reveal his unique personality."
Keith Jones, BBC Cymru Wales Head of Welsh Language Programmes, said: "As a broadcaster, Ray had the rare ability of making every listener feel he was speaking to them personally. His personality, exuberance and passion shone through whenever he was on air. We wanted to commemorate those characteristics and John Meirion Morris has captured the very essence of the man in this stunning bronze."
The sculpture's plaque carries inscriptions in English and Welsh, aimed at capturing what Ray's personality brought to the airwaves and to Wales.
The Welsh wording "Un o'r werin yw'r arwr" is taken from an englyn – a Welsh poetic form – written about Ray by poet Aneurin Karadog. Broadly translated it means "The hero is one of the people".
The English inscription "Remember, the people make the place" is a line that Ray used often, across Wales and the world, according to his Radio Wales co-host and friend Frank Hennessy.
At the time of commission BBC Cymru Wales worked in partnership with Safle, the Wales-based independent public art consultancy and one of the largest public art organisations in the UK, to commission John Meirion Morris.
Ray Gravell was a regular commentator and pundit on BBC Wales radio and television programmes, hosting his own BBC Radio Cymru programme, Grav, on Radio Cymru as well as starring in a range of TV dramas.
As a rugby player, Ray Gravell won 23 Welsh caps and a place in the British Lions squad which toured South Africa in 1980. He played for Llanelli from 1969 to 1985, was part of the Scarlets team which famously beat the All Blacks in 1972 and captained the team between 1980 and 1982.
John Meirion Morris has created a number of bronze portrait heads including a sculpture of Welsh poet Gwenallt, children's author T Llew Jones, former National Poet Gwyn Thomas and Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709), former keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Ten of his portraits are part of The National Library of Wales permanent collection.
His bronze cross titled The Untenanted Cross is a tribute to poet R S Thomas and can be seen on the altar of the Anglican Church in Porthmadog. Morris – who was a university lecturer in England, Ghana and Wales for almost 30 years – was also awarded the Glyndwr Award for his contribution to the Arts by The Museum of Modern Art, Wales in 2001.
Safle was an independent public arts consultancy formed in 2007 through the merger of CBAT – the Arts & Regeneration Agency and Cywaith Cymru Artworks Wales. It ceased trading in October 2010.
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