Conference pays tribute to David Jones

"The Garden Enclosed", David Jones

12 September 2012

The new David Jones Centre, based at the Department of English and Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University will be launched at a conference at the National Library of Wales (NLW) this Friday, 14th September.

As a painter David Jones (1895-1974). worked mainly in watercolour, painting portraits, landscapes, and legendary and religious subjects. He was also a wood-engraver and designer of inscriptions and the author of the epic war poem In Parenthesis, acknowledged by T. S. Eliot as a poem of major importance.

His Catholic beliefs and Welsh heritage infuse his work. Born in Brockley, Kent to a Welsh father, Jones closely identified with his father's background and developed an early interest in art. 

In January 1915 he enlisted with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and saw extensive service in France and Flanders. After demobilisation he returned to his art studies at Westminster School of Art.

He met the engraver and sculptor Eric Gill and joined his Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic at Ditchling where various craftsmen worked together to earn both a living and a reputation and where Jones turned his hand to wood and copper engraving. In 1925 he joined Gill at Capel y Ffin, Breconshire.

Suffering a mental breakdown in 1932 as a result of his war experiences, he virtually withdrew from art for five years, re-emerging in 1937 to publish In Parenthesis, the work for which he is perhaps best known today.

Like David Jones the new centre will focus on the creative interaction of word and image. The other main strand of research will concern the history and interpretation of literary modernisms, and their legacy, in Wales and beyond.

David Jones’s work is both a major element of that history and a sign of its complexity—raising questions of cultural displacement, centre and periphery, linguistic and national identity, and received narratives of literary history.

The Centre will support staff and postgraduates who research the extensive archives of key figures in Welsh modernism held at the NLW, assisting with grant applications, advising on specific projects and organising conferences.
Dr Luke Thurston, Lecturer in English & Creative Writing and organiser of the conference  said: “I came to Aberystwyth University about eight years ago and my interests lay in Irish modernism but on arriving here I started to explore the roots of Welsh modernism and felt that it was an area of study that needed further exploration.

“Having the NLW’s archive of art and writing on my doorstep was like finding buried treasure and gave me the opportunity to research the work of David Jones, whose work was highly influential and respected but had been neglected to a great degree.

“The Centre will be building on existing strengths in the Department, in both literary studies and creative work and will foster a collaborative network of projects and events involving different University departments (such as Art, History and Welsh History and Theatre, Film and television Studies) and the NLW, as well as the Arts Centre and galleries in Wales and beyond.”

“By naming this new centre after David Jones we will be giving modern Welsh literature a boost within the department and also honouring a multifaceted and talented Welsh artist and poet whose work appeals to this day.”

The conference will take place at Y Drwm, NLW and will include a keynote speech by Professor Paul Hills of the Courtauld Institute, London who is an expert on the life and work of David Jones and who curated a retrospective exhibition at the Tate Gallery.

There will be a variety of talks throughout the day on Modernism in Wales, the Word and Image and a presentation on the NLW David Jones Collection and Archive. The day will culminate in the showing of a film by Adam Alive and Derek Shiel called David Jones Between the Wars: the Years of Achievement.

Tickets to the conference:  £25.00; Students £15.00 (including lunch, refreshments and film); £5.00 film only at 5.00pm.

To book, go to or telephone 01970 632 548.