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Elvis rock goes to Graceland

CEH270516_Page_20_Image_0003AN ICONIC Welsh rock on a remote hillside in Mid Wales is to have pride of place in Graceland, the former home of Elvis King of Rock, in Memphis Tennessee, which now houses the Elvis Presley museum.

A new painting of the small hamlet of Eisteddfa Gurig by local Ceredigion artist Wynne Melville Jones features the famous roadside ‘Elvis’ graffiti and is known locally as the ‘Elvis Rock’.

Now, a limited edition print of this original painting has been presented to the Elvis Presley Archive at Graceland in Memphis, the famous mansion and home of the world’s greatest rock star which now houses the Elvis Presley museum and archive and attracts 700,000 visitors annually.

The ‘Elvis Rock’ is located on the A44 some 10 miles east of Aberystwyth, close to the hamlet of Eisteddfa Gurig near Pumlumon in the upper reaches of the Cambrian Mountains and has been a popular roadside feature for travellers for over fifty years.

On a dark night in 1962, two young boys from Aberystwyth ventured out to the hills with a paint brush to daub the name Elis in support of Islwyn Ffowc Elis, the Plaid Cymru candidate in the Montgomeryshire constituency. A by-election had been called following the death of local MP Clement Davies.

Soon after the election the name was changed to Elvis, assumedly by a fan of the world renowned rock and roll entertainer. It is said that colleagues of the distinguished and good natured politician and literary figure Islwyn Ffowc Elis felt at the time that the author was quite pleased to be put on the same stage as the King of Rock.

Islwyn Ffowc Elis was one of the most successful and best known Welsh language novelists in the twentieth century and died in 2004 at the age of 79.

The canvas painting by Wynne Melville Jones was completed earlier this year for an exhibition to mark five years of artwork. The original picture entitled ‘Eisteddfa Gurig – Elvis Rock’ is one of 56 paintings by the artist currently on show at the exhibition at Oriel Rhiannon in the market town of Tregaron.

Former art student Wynne, who grew up in Tregaron and returned to the paint brush five years ago after a gap of 40 years is very proud to stage a keynote exhibition of his work in his hometown. He has completed 250 paintings in this five year period.

Wynne became known as moderniser of the Urdd youth movement in the 1970’s and his best known creation undoubtedly is the Urdd’s movement cult figure Mr Urdd – a favourite with hundreds of thousands of children and young people in Wales over four decades. In 1979 he set up Wales’ first bilingual PR agency StrataMatrix and he ran the company successfully for thirty years.

Since retiring in 2011 he has become totally immersed in his main interest – visual art and works from his studio at his home in Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn / Llandre near Bow Street in Ceredigion. His picture of the most remote chapel in Wales, Soar-y- Mynydd near Tregaron, is in the art collection of former US President Jimmy Carter.

Wynne is very proud of his roots in west Wales and feels a sense of responsibility for all things Welsh. His paintings reflect his depth of knowledge and respect to the rich heritage and culture of the rural communities.

“I paint what catches my eye and most of my pictures are inspired by the landscape and the colours and cultural features of west Wales and the subject matter of many of my pictures are familiar to lots of people.

“I regularly travel on the A44 and the Elvis Rock is a familiar site, and to me it’s a welcome home landmark on my return journey as I approach my home county of Ceredigion as the county boundary is just round the corner from the rock.

“With the graffiti on the rock having been undisturbed for half a century it is now regarded as a Welsh national tribute to Elvis and I feel that Graceland is the natural home for this picture.

“I have personally been influenced by both giants associated with this rock. Elvis and his music was music was a central part of my youth culture and as a student I had the privilege of knowing Islwyn Ffowc Elis personally and grew to appreciate his literary work during my college days at Trinity College Carmarthen where he lectured in the Welsh and Drama department.

“It’s always far more satisfying to paint a subject which has a personal meaning,” said Wynne.

The original painting Eisteddfa Gurig – Elvis Rock is currently on show in the exhibition at Oriel Rhiannon Tregaron. The picture has been purchased last week by a private buyer but it will remain on display at the Gallery until the exhibition closes on July 2.

About the author

Dayne Stone

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