New One-Person Exhibition:
9–30 Oct 2017, Belgrave St Ives
Private View Sat 7 Oct 6 – 8pm
A major name in St Ives post-War art, Sven Berlin entered the canon of history through the critically acclaimed Tate exhibition ‘The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in British Art’ in which Modernism was repositioned.
Berlin quickly made his mark as a romantic and unorthodox figure within the creative milieu that was the St Ives art scene of the 1940s and 1950s and the name of the Tate exhibition took its title from his infamous book ‘The Dark Monarch’. The book is a colourful portrayal of several identifiable characters in the town and it led to libel actions that almost ruined him financially.
Berlin carving outside the tower (his St Ives studio) in 1947
To note, he arrived in Cornwall before Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, and was a founder member of the Crypt Group (1946), which was the basis for the consolidation of the post-War school of British Modernism that St Ives became famous for. He was an adagio dancer before becoming a visual artist, and his powerful flamboyant personality clashed with several of the other artists centred around St Ives. In 1953 he left Cornwall in a horse and cart (people alive today still recount the story of him tearing away at a clatter and with speed) to live amongst the gypsy community of the New Forest finally settling in Dorset, where he died in 1999.
Berlin’s tremendous artistic output, traversed a wide range of media: sculpture, painting, drawing, printmaking, autobiography, novel writing and poetry. The graphic strength of Berlin’s two-dimensional work underpinned every element of his creative work, particularly the three-dimensional draughtsmanship to be found in his stone carving. It is a fact that all great sculptors are consummate drawers (see for example Elizabeth Frink, Frank Dobson, Gaudier Brzeska et al). In addition to this draftsmanship evident in the drawings and sculpture, the innate flamboyance of Berlin’s character was given full and vibrant expression in a series of beautifully rich still life works, natural history paintings and self-portraits, which can also be seen in the exhibition.
Berlin’s strength of character, which enabled him to reach the heights of artistic excellence while enduring grinding poverty, was matched by an immense physical strength enabling him to carve granite. Above all his life was characterised by an indomitable polymathic spirit. Belgrave St Ives represents the Estate of Sven Berlin and is pleased to continue the exhibition programme of this artist’s work that began in 1989 with Belgrave Gallery, London. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies ‘Polymath’.
Sven Berlin ‘Amanita Phalloides, New Forest’ 1954, oil on board; 34 x 52.5cm.
Sven Berlin ‘Praying Mantis’, pen, ink and wash; 38.5 x 29 cm.
Sven Berlin ‘OFC: Ancient Mariner’ 1995, marble; 6.25 cm (H).
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