Monday, November 28, 2011

A Forgotten Prodigy ~ Joan Manning Sanders 1913-2002

A review of Penlee House Gallery’s Autumn 2011 exhibition

Penlee’s latest show turns the spotlight onto Joan Manning Sanders, a painter whose reputation has languished for some eighty years. Attaining her first commission at the age of eleven, this rising star of the 1920s was exhibiting at London’s Royal Academy by the time she was sixteen. Over a period of ten years she established a career as a renowned portrait painter, then disappeared off the critics’ radar.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Louise Connell at Falmouth Art Gallery

My carefully prepared list of questions receded into insignificance when I arrived at Falmouth Art Gallery to meet its recently appointed director. Louise Connell clearly feels very much at home in her new environment. Bursting with enthusiasm, she whisked me down into the basement store, revealing an Aladdin’s cave of artworks to which she responded with a mixture of affection, delight and awe.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Edith Collier ~ New Zealand’s forgotten artist

When Edith Collier died in 1964, several of the younger generation in her family had no idea that she had been an artist. She passed away in the family home she shared with her sisters in Wanganui, on the west coast of New Zealand’s North island, the town where she was born some eighty years earlier.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Open Studios Cornwall 2011

Happily coinciding with the start of summer, Open Studios has become a well-established fixture in Cornwall’s cultural calendar. In its seventh year under the auspices of Creative Skills, and having recently attracted the sponsorship of Truro Arts, its future looks assured. With over 200 participants this year (two-thirds of them women) it was difficult to choose which studios to visit, so I decided to limit myself to mid-Cornwall.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hilda Quick and the Minack Theatre

A visit to the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno is a truly memorable experience. Looking down into the amphitheatre from the entrance, the first impression is of a cascade of terraces tumbling vertiginously into the waters of the Atlantic far below. This downward momentum is abruptly halted by a stage on which the ancient Greeks would have felt quite at home. Beyond lies the ocean, an enticing aquamarine on a calm summer’s day, but prone to being whipped up into a turbulent frenzy by the unpredictable Cornish weather.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Partou Zia ~ Painter of Dreams

In March 2003, No. 5 Porthmeor Studios opened its doors to Partou Zia. For the next six months this would be her working space, under the terms of the pioneering Tate St Ives Artists’ Residency Programme. Partou was the first recipient of the award, initiated to support the development of young artists in Cornwall. She was also the first woman to occupy this historically significant studio, previously inhabited by Borlase Smart, Ben Nicholson and then Patrick Heron. These iconic figures of twentieth century art had each left in their wake a reputation larger than life, together with liberal splatters of paint decorating every available surface.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mary Fletcher ~ feminist, socialist ~ and artist

‘My pieces celebrate ordinary people’s extraordinariness’ – Mary Fletcher

As I admired the magnificent view from the front window of her home in St Ives, Mary Fletcher reflected on her first visit to the town as an impressionable youngster in 1959. A group of ‘beatniks’ sitting on the harbour wall enjoying the sunshine is an image from this family holiday which stayed with her throughout her teenage years. When her schooldays came to an end, the prospect of a life beyond her home town of Derby beckoned. Mary dreamed of a bohemian existence, unfettered by authoritarian constraints.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Emily Carr, Talmage and Tregenna

‘…an isolated little old woman on the edge of nowhere…’  – Emily Carr

St Ives can weave its magic in unexpected ways. To Emily Carr, a 30-year old Canadian artist from British Columbia, the special quality of the sunlight proved to be a mixed blessing. On her arrival in the town in 1901, she enrolled at the art school run by the renowned seascape painter, Julius Olsson, exponent of ‘plein air’ painting. Prior to this, she had studied art in San Francisco.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ithell Colquhoun ~ from Lamorna to Lanhydrock

This month, I’m on the trail of the elusive Ithell Colquhoun. While usually described as a surrealist painter, she was also a prolific author, poet and playwright. Yet her writings offer little insight into her personal life or emotional relationships. She remains an enigmatic outsider, isolated from the artistic and literary mainstream. Her fascination for mysticism and the occult became entwined with a quest for identification with the spirit of the Celtic landscape.