With one long weekend left to see the Pearce exhibition, we thought we’d share texts and other context related artwork we have on show. Consisting of oil paintings, drawings by Bryan, the exhibition also includes work by Leonard Fuller (who led the St Ives School of Painting in the 1950s attended by Pearce) and work by his mother and artist friends.
From the 1970s, with the help of other St Ives artists, Pearce produced a series of etchings. Also, under the direction of fellow artists and master printmaker, a number of silk screen stencils based on his oil paintings were produced. Sympathetic to the original paintings these limited edition prints are signed by Pearce.
Pearce remained largely uninfluenced by other artists although is mother was a good amateur artist. Often paired with the earlier local Naive artist, Alfred Wallis, although with different temperaments, both are genuine ‘Outsider’ artists with a similar matter-of-fact freshness and singularity of view.
Peter Lanyon Standing Stones 1951.
Sheet size: 55.5 x 38 cms Signed and dated Registration Proof
The harbour, the coastguard, or the bridge over the railway happen to Bryan Pearce who is a native of St Ives. All these things have an activity which is not only seen, there, is evidence in every painting of an awareness which is more direct, the knowing which a man will have for land or sea or craft. When this understanding is linked to the kind of play which is common in child art, the combination is called Folk Art. If a category is necessary, Bryan Pearce is nearest to this.
His art emerges at a time when sophistication is disintegrating St Ives painting, and a self-conscious group of artists is mourning the decline of a fictitious ‘St Ives School’. Bryan Pearce takes a walk to Carbis Bay, returning by the cliff path to paint what has happened with a blue sea and green grass and side-seen house and around corner looks, that have been avoided in the quaint and pretty concept of picture postcard St Ives, and exploited in boutique primitivism. Because his sources are not seen with a passive eye, but are truly happenings, his paintings original.
Theory and speculation usually put distance between the event and its descriptions, and the painting is subjected to stretching by miles of elastic works, so that the acts of observing, making and communicating are all studies out of context. These paintings may be subjects of analysis to some people but that activity is not going to make the paintings more understandable. It is necessary to accept these works as the labour of a man who has to communicate this way because there is no other. It is then possible to celebrate the facts and not the theory.
St. Martin’s Gallery, London 1964
Denis Mitchell and Kate Nicholson
Sir Alan Bowness
These enchanting sunlit paintings are mostly of St Ives—the boats in the harbour, the fishermen’s cottages and gardens, the parish church that ones sees below Bryan Pearce’s studio window. It is a serene untroubled world that reflects the natural innocence and delight of a man who has found relief and rehabilitation through painting. For Bryan Pearce has suffered since childhood from a crippling mental illness (phenylketonuria) that has made normal communication impossible for him, and in Peter Lanyon’s words he ‘…has to communicate this way because there is no other.’
New Art Centre, London 1966
Mary Pearce (Pearce’s mother) and Leonard Fuller (Pearce’s teacher)
H. S. Ede
If anyone is in need of peace, trust and joy, they will find it in the work of Bryan Pearce. He gives with his whole being, totally free of sophistication and totally altruistic; he paints as he breathes. These stones which form a pier, this blue which surrounds a ship, this island and lighthouse, this road, church, window, flowers in their pot, a thousand visual things, are the deep unconscious quality of this interior life and his immediate contact with his close friend God.
I know of no artist with whom I can compare him in this direct simplicity and devotion save Fra Angelico who would place one colour against another with assurance and tenderness, and yet, so it is said, when he painted the body of Jesus, he closed his eye in humble knowledge of his own frailty
Bryan Pearce has this inward vision, undisturbed by greed, desire of worldly achievement, concern with his own personality and much else; and such wholeness lives in the his absorbed loved, expressed he know not how.
It isn’t at all as a naïve painter he should be classed, or even perhaps as a ‘painter’—he really knows little of technique—but as an individual actively happy in reproducing the beauty of the visual works and his instinctive entrapment in it. I am grateful to him for this unhindered vision which is the deathless source of art.
Falmouth Art Gallery. Cornwall 1982
Breon O’Casey and Barbara Hepworth
Always beginning a painting with a feint pencil outline and gradually blocking in areas using a personal palette of colours, a sense of order and calmness, bathed in the ambient light of western Cornwall, pervades Pearce’s work.