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Fish, Birds, Mythology, Landscape—the

passion of a local sculptor

When Neil Dalymple was a young men he emigrated to British Columbia, as he described it, “land of wide rivers and high mountains”. Anybody who has been fortunate enough to see, for instance, the Fraser River o the Wells Gray National pail did understand the pull o that wild and beautiful country on a sculptor who was already greatly interested in wildlife. Born in Liverpool he had often visited North Wales as a child. It was her that he learnt to fish and grew to appreciate the shams o the other inhabitants of ponds and rivers as well as bird and animals. The Dee and the Clwyd must also have held him, however, because when he relearned to this country after 13 years in Canada (where he became a Canadian citizen), he settled back in North East Wales, becoming the first artist to make his headquarters in the former Ruthin Craft Centre; he is still there in the new building: “it’s a great improvident on what went before”, he told me. His training as an artist began at Wrexham College for Art and Design (1966-68). moved on to Loughborough College of Art and Design (1968-71) where he obtained his diploma,and then to Cardiff University (1971-72) for his art teacher’s certificate. Then came Canada, where he set up a studio near Victorian Vancouver Island. The quality of his work was quickly recognised, and remains on show at the Universities of Victoria and Calgary, and at the Greater Victoria Art Gallery. He contributed to an exhibition “Marine Life through the Artists’ Eyes” at the Vancouver Aquarium in 1984, and at Expo ’86 in Vancouver he exhibited a sculpture of twelve large Coho demon. He was well placed to observe nature, surrounded by “big mountains and big views, but also close to the sea”. Back here he has continued to sculpt fish, with commisions from the Salmon and Trout Association amongst several other interested parties. His attention to detail is impressive. Before he starts he either catches or buys the fish in questions, not in the just instance to eat it, but to study its bone structure, its facial features and its texture He is a representational sculptor. concerned to reproduce as accurately as possible the creature he has examined Though fish was his first passion he has extended the same concern for faithful
representation to many other creatures, including otters—and, of courses, people! Currently on display in his studio are recent sculptures of birds, such as tree creepers, gulls and wrens. But Neil is wide-ranging and prolific. Wildlife is his first but by no means his only passion. It would be possible to plan a “Neil Dalrymple trail” round local schools to see, to take a random lists, his scultpures of landscapes at Pen Barras, Llanferres, Llanarmon and Llandyrnog; or mythological and historical scenes at Mold (the Mold Cape), Colwyn day (the Mabinogion), Pentrecelyn (cattle drovers). His interest in mythology is not confined to that of Wales; hardly unexpectedly, the ancient stories of American Indians are in evidence, as is the Gilgamesh epic (ancient Assyria and Babylon, at Wem, Shropshire). Throughout, his attention to detail and accuracy is much in evidence. The Tom Pryce memorial, now installed in Clwyd Street, ration, was. he admits an entirely new departure in subject matter. He has no previous knowledge of Formula One motor racing. Typically, he set to work to master to: details - the framework and texture of the cars. the atmosphere of the meetings the clothing of the drivers. Then he turned his attention to Tom Pryce himself. consulting, in the first place, photographs in books and magazines, from which he made a first draft. He was then able to consult the driver's mother, from whom he leaned more abut his eyes, lips, and stubble! and from his widow, who added further personal insights. “l wanted it to be absolutely right”, said Neil. He was, in this case, also answerable not only to himself and to his professional skill but also to a committee, who looked at the emerging work on several cessions, asking him to simplify it. He's pleased attic the result but, not unreasonably, awaits satin some impatience. the production and installation of a plaque nearby to recognise the name of the artist and the date of the work. In many resets Neil's work is very different from that of his colleagues, at least those who exhibit or who are ill residence at the Craft Centre. But he and them are united in commitment to individuality; this is no mechanic assembly line', this is all handmade work.
DEREK JONES met Neil Dalrymple in December 2010