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The Allure of Ruins: A solo photography show from Jon Pountney

20 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Urinal, Trehafod, 2024 & R L Jones & Sons, Builders and Undertakers, Blaenau Ffestiniog, 2024. Copyright: Jon Pountney

A solo exhibition featuring images of post-industrial Cymru from celebrated Treforest-based photographer, Jon Pountney has launched this weekend.

TEN gallery in Cardiff is presenting a solo exhibition of photography by artist Jon Pountney, titled ‘The Allure of Ruins’.

The seminal body of work from one of Wales’ leading photographers is a select fraction of the work amassed over ten years of repeated trips and constant inspiration.

Dunlop Works Boiler House, Brynmawr, 2024. Copyright: Jon Pountney

The post-industrial landscape of Cymru has been a long-standing theme in Pountney’s practice, with a near-compulsive documentation of crumbling monuments, scarred land and iconic markers of the country’s history.

The photographs take us on a journey – from the south Wales valleys, through the canolbarth and up to slate-filled Blaenau.

He captures remnants of industry, stubborn structures who refuse to be reclaimed, markers of a bygone area – some obvious, others hiding in plain sight.

Moss-covered stones, rusted-still machinery and the dilapidated – these elements are ingrained into both landscape and memory.

Far from depressing, the romantic sublimity of it all oozes from the photographs.

Pountney’s lens gives us both the micro and macro views, focusing on hidden detail and magnifying the beauty which remains – all bathed in the extraordinary light his eye catches.

‘Ammonia House’, Dowlais Works Ruin, Merthyr Tydfil, 2024. Copyright: Jon Pountney

His love for his subject is clear and, coupled with his familiarity with his content, translates into authentic storytelling.

“No interest in the past as past, but in the accumulated intenseness of the past as present’

– Myfanwy Evans

Speaking about the exhibition, Jon said: ‘What would the face of Wales look like? If you picture in your mind the history of Wales, looming out of the fogs of time stand famous and mythical figures, castles and craggy mountains.

“Moving closer to the present day, the sudden explosion of the Industrial Revolution brings a multitude of new figures and landscapes into sharp focus as the mists of time slip away.”

Pump Machinery, Cwm, Ebbw Vale, 2024. Copyright: Jon Pountney

“The men and women of that time are no longer with us, but the landscapes are, and it is those spaces that bring detail and scars to the imaginary face of the modern Wales.

“Communion with the environment”

“This work is a conversation with the artists of the past and future that have, and will, deal with the landscapes of Wales.

“Part of a dialogue that begins with Richard Wilson, Thomas Jones and Thomas Prytherch and continues with Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Ray Howard-Jones, I’ve covered the country in detail for over a decade, photographing the post-industrial landscapes that lie hidden in plain view.”

Pit Head, Lewis Merthyr Colliery, 2024. Image: Jon Pountney

“The landscapes exist out of time, in the past, present and future, and the industrial scars left on them are only a tiny blip in the continuum.


“Over time, I have been taken in by the sense of place of these spaces.

“All of them have the feeling of restlessness, a recording of an energy from the past, lives lived and lost.

“Very often I’m the only person there, and documenting the atmosphere becomes a kind of communion with the environment; I become a conduit for what the space is sharing with me – becoming part of that space.”

The Allure of Ruins can be viewed at TEN Gallery, Cardiff from now until 25 May.

Located at the rear of 143 Donald Street Cardiff CF24 4TP, the gallery is open Wednesday – Saturday 10:30-17:00.

Find out more and view further images here.

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