An exhibition of paintings by 21 invited contemporary artists associated with Belgrave St Ives. Includes work by: Virginia Bounds, Jessica Cooper, Henrietta Dubrey, John Emanuel, Anthony Frost, Luke Frost, Jeffrey Harris, Bo Hilton, Liz Hough, Stuart Knowles, Ffiona Lewis, Jason Lilley, Mary Mabbutt, Felicity Mara, Jane Mac Miadhachain, Alice Mumford, Sarah Poland, Brian Rice, Graham Rich, Eric Ward and Jack Watson.
Jeﬀrey Harris came of age in St Ives, artistically speaking. In the 14 years he lived and worked there, from 1956 through to 1970, the young oil painter developed an agile and assured language of lyrical abstraction that, by degrees, began to incorporate still-life motifs and landscape elements as he became more embedded in the thriving artists’ community and its geographical location.
Now in his 90th year, and having resided in Adelaide since the early 1970s, Harris is returning to St Ives for a retrospective exhibition of paintings, reliefs and etchings that demonstrates his curiosity and range as an artist while underscoring his formal approach to pictorial composition.
Harris arrived in Cornwall in 1956 as the newly appointed art teacher of a secondary school in Hayle. He and his ﬁrst wife, Margaret, lived in the adjacent village of Lelant, three miles from St Ives. Born in Leeds in 1932, Harris had obtained a Bachelor of Fine Art from Leeds College of Art, where he majored in painting and printmaking. Following two years in the army, he had returned to complete a Bachelor of Education, at the behest of his parents, a master tailor and a machinist, who worried their son’s calling wouldn’t keep food on the table.
Alas, Harris found teaching to be a fraught business and, after six months, he threw in the towel to focus on his art, taking on a series of odd jobs for income. Following the end of his ﬁrst marriage, Harris gravitated towards St Ives, whose popularity as an artists’ colony stretched back to the 1870s and ’80s, when the new railway ﬁrst brought visitors to the area.
The seaside town was enjoying a burgeoning international reputation at the time thanks to the modernist-minded community of artists that had coalesced around Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, who moved there in 1939 with Naum Gabo (the Russian sculptor departed for the United States in 1946). Meanwhile, Bernard Leach was also a longtime resident, having established his pottery in St Ives with Japanese colleague Hamada Shoji back in 1920.
In 1958, Harris met the Tasmanian-born painter Gwen Leitch, who had travelled to London on a scholarship to study at the Central School of Art & Design, where she was taught by Patrick Heron and Roger Hilton. After graduating, she had relocated to St Ives at the suggestion of Heron, who employed her as his children’s nanny and encouraged her art practice.
Leitch worked out of 7 Porthmeor Studio, next door to Ben Nicholson and, later, Heron at No. 5. She was only the second woman artist, after Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, to have been awarded one of the prized Arts Council studios overlooking Porthmeor Beach. Leitch also had a part-time job at The Crafts-men’s Shop on Fore St, run by Bernard Leach’s son David and furniture maker Robin Nance, and knew the Leach family well.
The couple, who married in Penzance in 1959, would share Leitch’s Porthmeor Studio for the next 12 years, living ﬁrst at Academy Place and later on Bowling Green Terrace. Active members of the Penwith Society of Arts, whose founders included Hepworth, Leach, Nicholson and Peter Lanyon, they showed regularly at the Penwith Gallery in St Ives and beyond, with Harris also having solo exhibitions in London and Manchester.
With a growing family to support, Harris gave teaching another go and found that he enjoyed it, lecturing in painting and drawing part-time at Falmouth School of Art, an hour’s drive away, from 1966 to 1969. He also had work acquired by the Arts Council of Great Britain, Cornwall County Council, Leeds Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery and other institutions.
Harris and Leitch welcomed four children into their lives while living in St Ives, and in 1970 the family emigrated to Australia. They spent two years in Hobart, where Harris taught at the Tasmanian School of Art, before settling in Adelaide in 1973. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, both Harris and Leitch taught at the South Australian School of Art while raising Julia, Claire, Miranda and Christopher, maintaining their art practice and exhibiting. Following his early retirement in 1990, Harris was able to focus exclusively on his art.
When Leitch was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Harris nursed her, enabling his partner of 48 years to pass away at the family home in Rose Park in 2006.
Harris continues to work in his garden studio every day, and this retrospective, which spans more than half a century, reveals an artist of considerable versatility, able to move ﬂuently between representational and abstract pictorial modes in a way that speaks to his years at Leeds College of Art.
For while a traditional, academic method of training prevailed when Harris was studying for his ﬁne-art degree between 1948 and 1952, when he returned to Leeds for teacher training in 1954, he was surprised to discover that everything had been turned on its head.
“Harry Thubron and Tom Hudson had come down from Sunderland, thrown out all the anatomical casts, painted the whole place white and started teaching a course called Basic Design, which was informed by Bauhaus principles,” Harris says.
“It was exactly what I was looking for, because while I was in the army I had become interested in artists like Paul Klee, who taught at the Bauhaus for 10 years,” he says.
In St Ives: The Art and the Artists, Chris Stephens writes that the “pioneering” course in Leeds “aimed to teach students to use their imaginations and to learn essential formal grammar”, implicitly encouraging abstraction. While there, Harris attended lectures by Victor Pasmore, who had sensationally ditched ﬁgurative art for Nicholson-inspired constructivism in the early 1950s.
“That’s where my ﬁrst square paintings came from. Heron started painting squares around that time too. What is the essence of it? If your support is shaped like a rectangle or a square, the easiest thing to paint is a square, because then you can control everything,” Harris says.
“Once you start putting curves in, where you are, you don’t know. So this new approach to teaching laid the groundwork for everything that followed. It was a whole new way of thinking about form, space and the surface of a painting,” he says.
Writing in St Ives Revisited: Innovators and Followers, Peter Davies argues that Harris’s early “‘period’ style of mosaic-like squares and rectangles of thick paint” was a function of his Bauhaus-inﬂuenced training, several examples of which are included in this exhibition: Composition in Yellow 1968; Yellow Squares 1968; Green Squares (Night) 1969; and Red Squares, 1969.
Arguably taking their cue from the abstracted impasto landscapes of Nicolas de Staël as well as Bryan Wynter’s more densely layered ﬁelds of patterned colour, these paintings radiate chromatic ‘heat’, which also serves to place them alongside the work of colourists such as Heron and Terry Frost, both of whom Harris was friendly with. Variations in hue and tone provide a sense of dynamic rhythm that causes the viewer’s eye to dance across the picture plane.
By the late 1960s, however, Harris had embraced curves and other organic forms, and was allowing ﬁgurative motifs to creep into his pictures, such as Blue Lands 1969, Pears with Knife 1969 and Winter Still Life 1969. Here, one can discern the inﬂuence of not just Nicholson and Heron, but also William Scott. Like many St Ives artists, Harris was responding to the Cornish landscape even while traversing a modernist path through abstraction. Experimenting with ﬁgure-ground and pictorial space, he began to exploit the tension between illusion and ﬂatness, image and object in paintings that have a touch of the neo-romantic about them.
Harris’ works from the early to mid 1970s bear the enduring inﬂuence of St Ives, even as the artist and his family were exploring their new environs in South Australia. Roundhouse Snooker 1972 recalls Nicholson’s carved and painted reliefs as well as Alexander Calder’s mobiles. A lifelong snooker player, Harris used to play at the Roundhouse in Market Place, St Ives.
“I really enjoy the game – it’s not unlike painting, in a way. With both, you have to think about body position, perception, how you see the balls and read the subtle angles,” Harris says.
“Some of the other artists in St Ives were a bit exclusive and tended to stick together. I was friends with them, but snooker and the working men who played it were always part of my life. When we lived in St Ives, I had strong friendships with many of the local men,” he says.
Likewise, Red Still Life with a Circle 1973 and Blue Still Life 1974 suggest aesthetic continuity more than rupture occasioned by moving to the other side of the world. The chief inspiration would appear to be Paul Klee over anything glimpsed in Australia.
With Coastal Movements 1973, Coastal Movements II 1973 and Coastlands with John Reeve’s Jug 1974, however, Harris’s experiences of the Australian landscape – especially Myponga Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula – are beginning to ﬁlter into his pictures.
“When we ﬁrst moved to Adelaide, we used to stay in a shack on the beach at Myponga on weekends and holidays. To get there, we’d take a road up this huge hill, which then sharply descended. Looking back from the beach you could see these bare rolling hills, like reclining nudes from behind – curving bottoms, hips, shoulders and backs. With few trees in the area, you became aware of basic geologic forms,” Harris says.
“We explored further, and from Second Valley you could walkover these hills as they swept down to the sea. They were huge. I’d never seen that ochre colour or that bareness. It reminded me of walking the rugged coastal path between St Ives and Zennor, but a diﬀerent colour, of course,” he says.
In 1974, Harris constructed a series of reliefs in shallow boxes in response to these landscapes, six of which are included in the exhibition. Comprising oil on board, relief, pencil and perspex, these ‘built’ landscapes nod to Nicholson and Pasmore. In a break with the past, we see Harris limiting his normally vibrant palette to the more muted hues of his new environment – white, beige, brown, olive, pink and russet.
Paintings made in the past 20 years show Harris re-engaging with pure colour and pictorial ﬂatness in spare, abstracted landscapes seemingly glimpsed from above. Often featuring large expanses of a single hue – tree-frog green, desert pink, turquoise and violet– these gestural canvases may take some of their inspiration from Peter Lanyon, whom Harris met several times before the St Ives-born painter’s tragic death following a gliding mishap in 1964.
As someone whose formative years were spent living and working in St Ives during its modernist heyday, it’s little wonder Harris continues to draw on the rich storehouse of memories and images in his mind. And he has returned to St Ives ﬁve times since, including in 1980, 1994 and 2018, when he made several suites of etchings depicting local views, whose diverse visual registers and bravura line work point to his old-school training. Stand outs include St Ives, Cornwall, The Harbour 1980-81, The Harbour 1994 and Mrs Thomas in Her Garden 1994, the latter referring to a kindly neighbour who lived next door to Harris and his family on Bowling Green Terrace.
“As an artist, I’m interested in what’s going on inside our heads and how it relates to the stuﬀ outside – the world in all its marvellous beauty. I have the visual language and formal awareness to deal with that ﬁguratively and non-ﬁguratively,” Harris says.
“But whichever style, medium or technique you’re working in, you’ve got to get it right. That can take a long time until you feel it formally, that it exists and that it has a right to exist.”
Paintings and Prints from Cornwall and Australia 1968 – 2022 is Harris’s first one-person exhibition in the UK since the 1960s. Showing at 3 Venues in St Ives, Cornwall and in our Virtual Reality gallery. Featuring oil paintings, reliefs and etchings shown for the first time in England, the exhibition includes a series of abstract paintings that represent the last work Harris made in the late 60s. These large oils on Masonite were recently rediscovered in Harris’s Australian studio and they are shown for the first time in this exhibition. The dates of the exhibition are 26 June – 18 July 2022
Born in 1932, Harris studied at Leeds College of Art before moving to St Ives in 1956. He shared Porthmeor Studio 7 with Tasmanian artist Gwen Leitch, before emigrating to Australia together in 1970.
Jeffrey Harris arrived in St Ives at a time the small seaside town was enjoying a growing international reputation as a centre for Modernist Art and a popular location for aspiring young artists. Bringing with him a solid training based on principles of ‘Bauhaus’ teachings influenced by artists Harry Thubron and Victor Pasmore, Harris was keen to find a personal visual language free of figuration and says, ‘My painting references a temporality and concern for place that evokes memory, early beginnings in Yorkshire, the landscape, the sea, and the places of Cornwall, and Australia. From these starting points my practice has developed both non-figuratively and with degrees of figuration to explore the visual language of colour and form’.
The artist continued to develop his work throughout the 1960s in St Ives and exhibited work in London before emigrating to Tasmania with Gwen Leitch, and their four children, in 1970. Subsequently moving to Adelaide, Harris pursued his painting career where he explored the colour and landscape of this new continent, exhibiting at galleries in Adelaide and Sydney. During this time Harris revisited St Ives on several occasions in effect keeping a connection to both the environments of South Australia and Cornwall, England, of which he states,‘my practice has always been informed by a deep connection to the landscape of West Penwith and to South Australia’
Harris was a Member of the Penwith Society of Arts and Crafts and lecturer at Falmouth School of Art and later at the Tasmanian School of Art and South Australian School of Art. His First solo exhibition was at the Rowan Gallery, London in 1961. Further one-person shows were held in Adelaide galleries, and at Robin Gibson Gallery Sydney.
Of the formative St Ives years, Harris says: “I learned a work ethic and what it was to be an independent artist when I moved, aged in my mid 20s, to St Ives. The professional support and friendship from artists including Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Bernard Leach, Tony O’Malley was significant. These artists set an example for the rest of my painting life. Aged 89, I still paint every day”.
ERIC WARD ‘About St Ives’ opened with a Zoom Private View on Saturday 13th June and runs until 4th July.
Following the easing of some government restrictions protecting us against the coronavirus, the gallery is now able to admit visitors to view the exhibition. To maintain social distancing and hygiene measures to ensure safety for visitors and staff, access will be controlled. We shall be operating limited opening times throughout June, so please contact the gallery to confirm the gallery is open or to make an appointment to view.
Interested in art from an early age, Ward is a natural painter working in the tradition of the Realist, plein air painters, and can often be seen painting in St Ives using his trusted pochade painting box. Eric began painting in 1985 at the St Ives School of Painting and has been an active member of the St Ives Society of Artists for many years.
As well as examples of his signature views of St Ives, for this exhibition we asked Eric to consider views of St Ives painted historically by some of the artists that have inspired him, including Arnesby Brown, William Cave Day, John Anthony Park, Leonard Richmond, Borlase Smart, W.H.Y. Titcombe and Terrick Williams, and to reinterpret those views in his own style.
Please view individual works in the exhibition by visiting the gallery website here.
Cooper The paintings in this exhibition are informed by three specific places and periods of time. A number of the works are executed on canvas –a support and surface with which I am familiar –representing safety, in a certain sense. The others employ wood panels –something of a voyage into the unknown –leading to experimentation and the highlighting of a certain abstraction in the work. These latter works are left unframed, imbuing them with a sense of freedom, breathing space and a lack of restriction. These important qualities are echoed thematically in the subject matter of some of the paintings.The abstracted trapezoid shape that appears in a number of the works originates in a section of a bridge/walkway leading to a beach on the Los Angeles coast. Like the bridge, the shape represents a link, and can thus be found reappearing in paintings regardless of the particular subject. Other objects or shapes in the works have become more isolated, in one sense, or perhaps connected by the space between them, in another. My usual colour palette has shifted to become more limited and muted, with subtle tones and the exploration of different shades, in particular yellows, pinks and browns, which are broadly new to me.Using drawings, photographs and memories, these works have taken a longer time to execute than formerly, using thought, reflection and the re-reading of contemporaneous notes to take myself back to specific times and places, and then using the resulting feelings to create a new sense of purpose and calmness in the work; perhaps an authority, even.
Woods I find most of my inspiration in the simple forms of the coastline surrounding the studio, often towards Zennor and to the North Cliﬀs of Cornwall. There’s a feeling of openness when you reach the coast that brings balance and calm. The rhythm of the landscape can restore and influence us, as well as bring a focus to the way we work within the environment.This collection of paintings and prints brings attention to the process of making, the method of mark making, and the act of repeating a single movement to represent minimal and balanced observations. The paintings focus on the simple notion of repeating a single mark. Every element is worked by hand, and each piece features a sewn line between the canvas, often suggesting the landscape in the form of a diptych. As each tone is layered, I visualise the landscape in areas of light and dark, similar to the method of mark making in my drawings and prints. The lines of an etching signify something meditative in the landscape. A methodical process of observing and drawing the coast, reflecting the balance that being beside the water brings. The motion of the water seems to echo the methodical lines of my drawings with focus on movement, feeling and repetition. Something structured but also intuitive is reflected in the process of working on a print. Each print begins with a sketchbook drawing that is slowly worked into an etching, and printed to a limited edition in the studio. When working with a plate my practice of printmaking focuses on the movement of ink and the direction of hand-drawn lines, becoming familiar with the marks that are unique to each piece.
4th MAY 2020
TWO PERSON EXHIBITION JESSICA COOPER Reflecting Images SARAH WOODS The Edge of the Land
4 – 30 May 2020, Belgrave St Ives
Jessica Copper and Sarah Woods have created a body of work that can perhaps help us a little in this period of isolation. Their paintings and drawings hold unique lines, rhythms and meditative qualities and offer us that intangible beguiling quality that one seeks from being near to the coast.
Spring is arguably the most beautiful season in Cornwall. The cliffs and hinterland are full of colour from the abundant flora, and the extra lines of light that gravitate towards you, from the sunny hue of the water’s edge or through the interior space of a window, are unparalleled. However, this spring more of us can’t see coastal views and dreamy interiors, we just have to remember, reimagine or carry on dreaming them. Cooper and Woods’ work is restorative; they produce a sensitive quality of line, deal with the moods of coastal landscapes and seek a meditative or at least a reflective response to each piece of work they create. They help us reconfigure.
Sarah Woods Across the North Cliffs 2019
Acrylic on hand-sewn canvas; (diptych) Each canvas 101.5 x 101.5 cms
Cooper, a respected and well-known painter due to her paired back style and dedication, has looked back on her practice to create a new body of work for this show. She has studied the landscape and the still-life images she has created in the past, which has specifically brought her to look at three places and three periods of time. The first circulates around imagery from Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, the second is a counter space to this cliff and beach space, a frenetic Los Angles neighbourhood that she visits and works in, where the mid century interior is often present. The final space is the interior of her brother’s home in which a body of her work hangs. She explains ‘she realises there is a link to the LA interior and its materiality, and her childhood home with views to the sea’.
Jessica Cooper Air and Space and Knowing that I Love You 2020
Acrylic on canvas; 61 x 61 cms
Encompassing these spaces of time, Cooper gives you room to breath as you view coastline such as the famous chapel perched ceremonially above Porthmeor Beach. However, just when you might feel calm and comfortable and at home, she offers still life’s that are teetering on the edge of what seem hills or valleys or an abstracted void for you to start questioning or loose yourself in, but then there’s brush-marks, wood panelling and a palette of translucent colours that transport you to what might be light filled rooms, blossoming plants or breezy places to lie and rest.
Jessica Cooper (b.1967) Reflecting Images 2020
Acrylic and pen on canvas; 81 x 86.5 cms
Woods, like Cooper, focuses on time spent in the calmness of an ordered studio as much as in the landscape. However, whereas Cooper’s work encompasses the still life as well as the landscape and mixes those two genres at times together, Woods work manifests solely in the representation of landscapes through prints and paintings. As she paints she visualises the landscape in areas of light and dark, similar to the method of mark making in her prints. The canvas of each painting is hand stitched and stretched, and each tone is layered; the structure and process of the work, not just the subject, is balanced. She says the rhythm of the Cornish landscape can restore and influence as well as bring focus to the way she works within the environment.
Sarah Woods From Blue Hills, St. Agnes 2020. Edition of 35
Etching on Somerset Satin paper; 40 x 28 cms (plate) Sheet size: 50 x 35 cms
A painter and printmaker, Woods is working from an historic studio in Newlyn, Cornwall. Woods graduated from Falmouth University in 2016. Since then she has maintained a critical focus, honing her printmaking and painting skills through making and exhibiting. She finds most of her inspiration in the simple forms of the coastline surrounding the studio, often towards Zennor.
For most of her life, Cooper has lived and worked in West Penwith, Cornwall. This is her base though she travels widely, particularly to California. She draws inspiration from these coastal locations. She studied at Falmouth College of Art and Goldsmiths University of London graduating in 1989. Cooper is a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists, Penwith Society of Artists, and is an elected RWA. She has exhibited widely including at The Exchange, Penzance and Tate St. Ives.
#ArtStives #lockdownart @belgravestives
You can read more about their exhibitions and see a 3D virtual tour of their work here
NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information and images, please contact Richard Blackborow:
Belgrave St Ives, 22 Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1HE
firstname.lastname@example.org tel. 01736 794888
Please enjoy these informal installation shots of our exhibition of 27 of the 32 drawings made for The Dark Monarch by Sven Berlin. Executed c.1955, these drawings were used as illustrations for his notorious roman-à-clef The Dark Monarch in 1962. The work was a thinly-disguised and irreverent portrait of St Ives, its artists, and others who lived and worked in the town. Among the loosely disguised cast of artistic characters were W. Barns-Graham, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Bernard Leach, Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, Bryan Wynter and many others. The novel was withdrawn soon after publication, when legal action was taken by four of the local ‘characters’ in the book. This is the first time that the original drawings made for the novel have been exhibited.
You can view the individual works in the exhibition by following this link to the gallery website.
Our Alice Mumford exhibition opened with a very lively Private View on Saturday evening, and the show has been visited and enjoyed by many visitors since we opened the doors on Monday. The exhibition runs until 7 Oct and coincides with the St Ives September Festival. We hope you enjoy the installation shots above, you can also view individual works on the gallery website here.
16 Sept – 7 Oct 2019, Belgrave St Ives
Private View Sat 14 Sept 6 – 8pm
“The passing of time is explored by Alice Mumford in a new body of work that looks at the painting and history of the shadow. Ambiguous time, elongated time and the spatial elements of time are explored in these paintings.”
The Sea View, Summer Afternoon Light, Perranuthnoe Oil on canvas; 100 x 100 cms
Belgrave St Ives is pleased to announce an exhibition by the painter Alice Mumford. In her previous exhibition, Mumford asked the viewer to study and celebrate with her the importance of colour and how it can be used to picture the everyday ordinariness of life but also its wonder. This time she is asking us to look at the passing of time that is present in a painting by offering a series of still-life and landscape works that play with shadow planes through the study of open windows, roof tops, laden tables and Cornish sea-scapes. In one of her painting courses (she is regarded highly as a teacher of painting), one of her students asked her, “What time of the day do you think Bonnard painted this?” Alice and other people in the group couldn’t decide. Alice then reflected ‘Bonnard makes composite shadows like a composite character in a book. These paintings are not made from one moment but from a whole day or time, from being in a place.’ She has worked towards the exhibition with this reflection as a focus.
Alice Mumford’s studio during her work towards Composite Shadows
Mumford is a painter who is entirely committed to her craft. Following training at Dartington, Camberwell, Southwark and Falmouth Colleges of Art, she has become one of the most accomplished painters currently working in Cornwall. After early successes with Cobra & Bellamy, Julian Lax and Badcocks Gallery, Mumford has been represented by Belgrave St Ives since 2005, during which time she has established herself as a pre-eminent painter of still life interiors that draw heavily on her own domestic life. Sansom & Co published a first monograph of her work in 2015. (Copies are available at the gallery.)
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition with a forward by the artist.
A special event to accompany the exhibition will be held Friday 27 September at Borlase Smart Room, Porthmeor Studios in St Ives. The artist will be in conversation with Dr Ian Massey, discussing the history of shadows and what composite shadows are.
#ArtStives #CompositeShadows @belgravestives
Cider and Melon Pieces on a Hot June Day
Oil on canvas; 61 x 76 cms
NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information and images, please contact Richard Blackborow:
Belgrave St Ives, 22 Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1HE