Tuesday, April 5, 2016

‘Taking Space’ at the Crypt Gallery, St Ives

Last week I had the privilege of showing my monoprints alongside three well-established artists who are members of ‘Taking Space’. Those of you who have followed my writings will remember my article about Mary Fletcher, who founded the group in the early 1990s. ‘Taking Space’ continues to flourish, with six exhibitions last year, not only in St Ives, but also Penzance, Falmouth and Porthleven. Participants work democratically, sharing responsibility for organising and holding exhibitions, and maintaining the group’s profile between shows. The changing membership of this diverse collective of women artists working in Cornwall contributes to its energy and vitality.
Setting up: Karen and Beverley’s paintings
The latest show at the Crypt (and the first of 2016) included an array of watercolours by Karen Smith, who studied textiles and graphic design in Southend before moving to Truro. A member of ‘Taking Space’ since 2005, Karen has exhibited her work throughout Cornwall. Her sensitive representations of anemones and sweetpeas were described by visitors as ‘superb’ and ‘exuberant’.
Anemones III
Acrylic ink on canvas
Karen Smith
Interspersed among her watercolours were some very large abstract acrylic canvases, a new departure for this versatile artist who also excels at life drawing.
Karen Smith
In complete contrast were Beverley Morgante Le Levier’s bold, vibrant acrylic abstracts, reflecting this painter’s exuberant personality. Beverley is half Italian, and her paternal family roots have been traced back to eighteenth-century Florence. With a French husband, and family in Italy and Spain, Beverley’s command of three European languages comes in handy. Her artistic potential was recognised early on, but it was many years before circumstances allowed her to focus on forging an artistic career for herself.
Green Zephyr
Acrylic on canvas
Beverley Morgante Le Levier
Pink Zodiac
Acrylic on canvas
Beverley Morgante Le Levier
Entirely self-taught, Beverley is inspired by the interplay between colours and nature’s endless diversity of pattern, texture and form, particularly in micro-organisms. The use of a wide range of collaged elements in her work testifies to a rich imagination and adventurous spirit.
Having followed Mary Fletcher’s career over the years, I was intrigued to notice a change of direction in her latest work. ‘Looking towards Newfoundland’ is a large painting which eloquently expresses the frailty of the solitary figure, dwarfed by a vast expanse of sand, sea and sky. Reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich’s iconic ‘Monk by the Sea’, the power of this image stems from the fact that it speaks to the viewer on a variety of levels.
Looking towards Newfoundland ~ Mixed media/collage by Mary Fletcher
Mary’s creative energy seems boundless. St Ives Arts Club is hosting a solo show of her drawings, ‘Picturing Pedyr and other People’ until 8 April. And a small stoneware piece by her entitled ‘New Year Bear and Fairy’ can be seen at the Penwith Gallery until 16 April.
My introduction to the world of art making began in 2012 when I participated in, and then wrote about a printmaking course at Newlyn School of Art. I became fascinated by the element of surprise inherent in the monoprinting process.
Back home I started making cards and small framed images – each one unique, as a monoprint cannot be replicated.
A chance meeting with Mary Fletcher last autumn led to my application for membership of ‘Taking Space’. In February I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the group, becoming the 100th member since its inception! The prospect of exhibiting my work in such an awe-inspiring venue was thrilling yet terrifying. The Crypt’s association in 1946 with figures such as Peter Lanyon and Sven Berlin, joined later by Barbara Hepworth and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, represented a seminal moment in the narrative of St Ives modernism. It seemed that my monoprints had no place in such a hallowed setting. But once our artwork was in position (with the added bonus of pristine white walls and superb lighting) the Crypt seemed an entirely appropriate location for our show.
Helen's monoprints
The inspiration for ‘Luna with lunaria’ came from a friend who has a childhood recollection of her mother calling the seed cases of the honesty plant ‘moon pennies’. In this piece I experimented for the first time with mulberry paper, a delicate yet versatile material which I love for its fibrous, semi-transparent quality.
Luna with lunaria
Mixed media
Helen Hoyle
Mulberry paper also found its way into the dendritic monoprinting technique used in Fractal Forest (right, acrylic on mulberry paper).
Among the hundreds of visitors who saw our work last week were several former members. It was fascinating to hear of their experiences and to discover where their art practice has taken them over the years. By the end of the week-long show I felt exhilarated by the realisation that ‘Taking Space’ had given me an opportunity which might never otherwise have come my way. The prospect of participating in further shows this year is exciting. Whatever happens, the momentum and creative energy of ‘Taking Space’ has given me the confidence to question my self-imposed limitations, and the freedom to allow my artistic journey to unfold in a direction as yet unknown.
Karen Smith’s work is on permanent display at the Camelford Gallery. She is exhibiting during June and July in the Gallery Room at Bradworthy Inn, in Devon. From 5-14 July her paintings can be seen at the Cornwall Watercolour Society’s show at the Rock Institute.
Beverley Morgante Le Levier will be participating in a group show at the Old Lifeboat House in Porthleven from 23 to 29 July. Immediately afterwards, her work will be shown at the Crypt, in an exhibition running from from 30 July to 5 August.
‘Taking Space’ can be found at www.takingspace.co.uk and is also on Facebook.

© Helen Hoyle 2016

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Florence Munnings Story

In the wake of the success of the recent movie ‘Summer in February’ I set out to establish the level of interest shown in Florence Munnings and the Lamorna artists. She was the key figure in the tragic sequence of events which unfolded in west Cornwall on the eve of the First World War.

Astonished to discover that the online photograph of her headstone had attracted over fifty thousand views, I persuaded my friend the artist Gabrielle Hawkes to accompany me on a journey into the past. Together we explored the locations, characters and artworks central to the narrative. It is not surprising that so many people continue to be moved by Florence’s story.

The result is the first YouTube video from Cornish Muse: ‘The Florence Munnings Story’.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Beginner’s Guide to Acrylics ~ with Yvette Wiltshire

St Ives and Penzance are well known as centres for art classes and workshops, but top class art tuition is also available in other parts of Cornwall. On a Saturday earlier this month I headed towards Liskeard to attend Yvette Wiltshire’s  (right) ‘Beginners Guide to Acrylics’ – one of a range of workshops and courses which she offers at various locations in mid Cornwall. Yvette’s interest in art began in the early 1990s, when her Father decided to take up painting as a retirement hobby.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sandra Blow 1925-2006 ~ in Search of Balance

Sandra Blow was described by Roger Hilton as an ‘heroic painter’. Certainly her late artworks are heroic in size. Currently her canvases can be seen at three locations in Cornwall. The Exchange in Penzance is showing a dozen works from the 1990s onwards, including Brilliant Corner II. Familiarity with reproductions of Blow’s work is nothing like the awe-inspiring experience of getting up close to these enormous originals.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Amongst Heroes ~ Royal Cornwall Museum

We live in an age of equal rights. Female stars of stage or screen, once known as actresses, are nowadays more usually described as actors. While the word ‘seamster’ exists in The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, I have yet to come across a male version of a seamstress (though ‘tailor’ is still in use). But ‘hero’ has for some time transcended gender barriers, and I was heartened to see that a number of women, both artists and subjects, are included in ‘Amongst Heroes’. My particular interest in the representation of women in art attracted me to three images from an exhibition which highlights the lives of the ordinary working people of Cornwall over a century ago.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Morag Ballard at Lemon Street Gallery, Truro

Approaching Lemon Street Gallery one morning in January, I had a feeling that Morag Ballard’s first solo show in Truro would surprise and delight me. I was not disappointed. The pristine white walls of Gallery One provide the perfect backdrop to her striking artworks. Spare, clean lines on curved boards or undulating surfaces induce a feeling of calm, while reliefs and collages set out to tease - and challenge - the eye, oscillating between the two- and three-dimensional. Geometric form takes precedence over colour, yet the shimmering hues, meticulously applied, imbue the canvases with a lively rhythm.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Barbara Tribe Revisited

Thirteen years after she died, and on the centenary of her birth in 1913, a collection of drawings by Barbara Tribe has found its way back to Cornwall. The portfolio was acquired by a private collector from an Oxford gallery in 2009.
Although best known as a sculptor, Tribe’s ability in other media was formidable. As I have written elsewhere after her husband’s death in 1961, she added ceramics to her repertoire of talents, creating some memorable pieces in that medium. But her drawings, like those of Barbara Hepworth, have always held a particular fascination for me, and I am delighted to be able to reproduce a selection of them here.