Journal

Ithell Colquhoun

My story with Ithell began at the Virginia Woolf , Cornwall Inspired by her writing exhibition at the Tate , St Ives early 2018.

An inspired exhibition of womens art from 1850 to modern day who are in some way inspired or connected by Woolf and her themes.

Ithell’s painting ‘Stalacite 1962’ attracted me for it’s composition and at first was just a great painting of Nanjizal cave, but it was so much more.

This excerpt is from the extensive website of Ithell Coloquhoun.

“Colquhoun’s art is an art of transformation. She had an enduring preoccupation with transient states; those moments of instability when something is neither one thing nor the other but possesses qualities of both. Moments such as these occur in the natural world, the human world and the realm of the spirit. Volcanoes, caves, rock pools, wells and fountains are places that can be said to form a permeable interface between the surface of the physical world and the underworld and, symbolically, between the physical and the spiritual worlds. 
The action of soft water on hard rock may eventually sculpt a cave. A cave is a place of ambiguity. At some point it changes from surface feature to subterranean structure. It may offer both protection and shelter but it can also trap and imprison. In mythology a cave is often an aperture that connects this world with the underworld. Because of their vulva-like entrance passages that penetrate into the earth, caves have been identified as the womb of Mother Earth, and associated with the mysteries of birth. The most memorable of her paintings of caves is Stalactite (1962) in which a tall phallic stalactite stands within the cave passage. It emerges from a watery pool, a potent symbol of female sexuality, and one that is that is strengthened by the appearance of a clitoris-shaped island at the end of the passageway. Paintings of rock pools (e.g. Rock Pool, c.1947), together with the Santa Warna series of watercolours and poems, bear witness to her long standing interest in the liminal zone where the land meets the sea, where the element water interacts with the element earth and which forms a gateway from the world of the living to the world of the dead.The defining feature of a rock pool is its transience: it exists only between high and low tides. The intertidal zone is thus a place of transition and transformation. At times belonging to the water and at times belonging to the land, at times wet and at times dry, at times fluid and at times solid, at times visible and at times concealed, it is a place that is neither one thing nor the other. Its existence is determined by tidal processes, themselves largely influenced by lunar forces. It is a dynamic area, intrinsically ambiguous, where water, the purifier, scours and cleanses the land. The ocean represents the chaos of creation out of which land is born. Water also stands for the instinctive and the unconscious; the land for autonomic biological processes which lie below the threshold of awareness. The foreshore is the place where consciousness is drowned and immersed in the unconscious and where material from the unconscious emerges into consciousness.  “
Deep stuff , but fascinating.
Ithell was a great writer too and her books have recently been republished.  ‘The living stones’ is her story of coming to Cornwall and her writings of the local area and traditions.  It’s beautifully written and imagines of a time when Cornwall still had real character but modernisation was calling.
The book made me want to know more and I discovered that she is quite revered down in Lamorna and especially in the mystical circles.  There have been talks and exhibitions and her legacy lives on. She must have been one very special lady and followed her heart and her dreams and led a very creative life in all sorts of ways.  Something I definately aspire too.
The infamous Stalacite painting…. what do you think 😉

Tate St Ives new underground extension built

New tate extension with tiles colour of the seaThe Tate in St Ives has been closed for 18 months while they dug into the rock face to create an enormous new gallery space. (link here to the Guardian for more info)  I had an invitation to the opening but thought I couldn’t go as we would be on holiday in Portugal…. BUT  lovely Ryanair and the French air traffic control conspired against us and our holiday was delayed by a week.

In a cloud of disappointment and feeling very unsettled, we decided to take off to St Ives as we could now attend the grand opening. As it was it turned out to be fortuitous occurrence as the weather was like summer and the event was incredible.

The new space is bigger than anyone expected with polished concrete floors and voluminous space inside. There is now a permanent exhibition of St Ives artists and history.

A free evening of canapes and tours was very exciting. We even got to sit next to Jon Snow from Channel 4 news in the beach cafe overlooking Porthmeor beach the next day.  A very exciting time for Cornwall.  I only took a few snaps and have just loaded the one above.  I love it because the ceramic tiles on the back look like verdigris copper but are in fact all hand painted and they were incredibly beautiful.  You will have to go and see for yourself.

We eventually got to Portugal and had a fabulous holiday.  A win win all round.

 

Seascape Commission of Duckpool, North Cornwall

Painting a a commission of Duckpool , North Cornwall, of the sea and a beach I’m not so familiar with, faced me with a few challenges.

The commission came from a lovely family to remember their first and favourite beach in North Cornwall that held so many memories and years of holidays in the area.

Duckpool is a fairly undiscovered spot in a beautiful valley that runs down to the sea from Kilkhampton in North Cornwall.  The roads are steep, narrow and windy and not for the faint hearted, but this affords the most stunning rugged landscape laid out that has not changed for centuries.

The beach is framed by towering cliffs and it’s not difficult to imagine the years of smuggling and hard life in this valley.

I spent some time here just absorbing the feeling of the place and it is often the memory of a glimpse of light that stays with me.  This was the case this October with beautiful low sunlight coming through the waves.  My clients knew the sea well and loved the light at this time of year, so it seemed timely to include it.

We measured the space to get the best proportion for the painting. Scale is so important and I love a large painting to give impact. With a blank canvas of 140 x 90cm facing me, it’s a brave first step to put some acrylic inks fluidly onto the canvas.

The following pictures show the journey…..

The finished painting was framed in a tray frame.  The wave has light and colour and the whole painting an immense feeling of energy and movement in the sea.  The foreground balances the left background with the dark rocks.  The stones in the foreground are loosely painted with a variety of colours giving the whole painting a harmonious feeling.

My best to date?  maybe it feels like that because of the way I felt challenged. It was certainly worth the effort.

Prints of the painting are available. Please enquire here.

A Cornish Seascape -Surrender to the Ocean

Surrender to the Ocean is the title of my centre piece Cornish seascape for my exhibition ‘The Sea and Me’ held in August 2017 at the Castle, Bude.

With no particular aim or scene in mind, I had one large painting to make for my exhibition and I had a blank 140 x 90 cm stretched canvas to fill.

I always have an iconic wave painting for my exhibition each year and I wanted this to be much more fluid rather than drawn, a certain wateriness whilst having vibrancy and lots of movement and energy.

The first washy layers gave me some form and the wave revealed itself.

The finished painting for the exhibition.  It had mixed reactions, but everyone felt like they were standing in front of something quite formidable. I just wanted to dive under it… to surrender to the ocean, but for some it, they felt overwhelmed and feared drowning.

large Cornish seascape of North Cornwall coast titled Surrender

Surrender to the Ocean 140 x 90cm

I had very little time to complete it and after the exhibition, I actually completely painting out the foreground and reworked it, strengthening the whole painting. The foreground spatters didn’t make sense to me and were too random lacking depth and tonality.  The finished reworked painting now hangs in Rick Steins restaurant at Porthleven.

cornwall seascape painting Bude

large seascape painting of cornwall

The Sea as Sanctuary

I spend a lot of time on the beach and in the sea. It has always been my sanctuary, but I hadn’t realised how important it was for me until this year.

Life throws you a sideswipe from time to time. We have been very blessed, but this year so far has been sadness on top of sadness for our personal family and close friends. We lost our dear Mum and Nan in February and then the loss of two young men through cancer and heart failure has touched us beyond measure.

We are very lucky to live by the sea and never take it for granted, but it is only through their passages of grief, I have realised I am certainly not alone in finding sanctuary there. Whether it is time remember watching sunsets, playing as a child or just for the experience of being by the sea, it is a special place for many.

I think we all find solace in the space, the ocean, the clean air, and it is a coming together of all the elements including ourselves to be one?

For me, being in the sea and with my favourite element of water, time stands still. I just ‘be’ and enjoy the experience of invigorating ionised air and the energy of the water as it is pulled by other forces, the weather and the moon.

There have been some epic sunsets of late too which just fill your heart and soul with wonder.