Portrait of a lady
A portrait of Bishop Joanna has been recently acquired by the National Library of Wales for its collection of contemporary art
The portrait is the latest in a series, by artist Ted Harrison, of prominent people in Wales, which includes the triple harpist, Robin Huw Bowen, the actress Sue Jones-Davies, famous for her role in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and singer and political activist Dafydd Iwan.
‘Thanks to Covid", explains Ted, "a conventional series of sittings wasn’t possible, but I met the bishop at Abergwili to sketch and photograph and then worked alone on the portrait over subsequent weeks.
"I wanted the work to be bright, but formal. Old fashioned portraits of bishops are too often dark and austere. I included the coat of arms to imply continuity, for Bishop Joanna, as well as being the first woman to hold the post, is also the latest in a line stretching back well over a thousand years."
Ted has worked as an artist for the last 12 years, having graduated with an MA in Fine Art. Previously he had worked in broadcasting, including 25 years with the BBC, during which he was, for a time, the BBC’s Religious Affairs correspondent and presenter of the Radio 4 religious news programme Sunday.
As well as portraiture Ted works in a wide range of other styles and media. Much of his work he describes as visual theology: "After a career reporting on contemporary religious affairs, and with a PhD in Theology, I was keen to explore faith issues without being limited by words and their disputed meanings." His work has been shown in several cathedrals and his 30ft diameter installation, drawing attention to children fighting in adults’ wars, was the 2011 focus of Remembrance in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.
He has also made several public wall sculptures including one large-scale work at Guy’s Hospital in London honouring organ donors. In 2017 he completed a series of etchings on Welsh slate celebrating the life and legends of St Padarn, to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of the saint’s arrival in Wales.
Ted divides his life between Aberystwyth and Unst, the most northern of the Shetland Isles. "In Wales I am an Anglican", he says, "though find myself equally at home when north worshipping with the local Presbyterian Church of Scotland congregation."