Liquid sunshine , Cornish Gorse
The liquid sunshine of Cornish gorse has filled my coastal journeys this Spring. The beautiful May coloured the coast a vivid yellow matched by my cadmium yellows dark and light and filtered into many of my new paintings.
I usually make a cocktail to match the theme of my annual solo show and this year it has to be the vanilla coconut fragrance and taste of the gorse flower.
The Cornish call gorse ‘Furzey’ probably due to its apparent fuzzy nature but picking the buds wasn’t so easy. A slow arduous process as the darn bushes have some nasty spikes.
There is also a lot of folklore associated with it. The proverb ‘ Kissing is out of fashion when gorse is out of blossom’; it was often used as wedding decoration and if a sprig was tied to the door on May day, you could get a glass of milk and slice of bread as a gesture.
I love painting gorse…..mixing cadmium yellows with paynes grey gives a beautiful warm greeny grey that is in the dark tangled undergrowth and with my loose spatter style, a myriad of yellow profuse and mix to make a dense yellow carpet to depict the gorse in full flower.
Art trip to Dublin
I’ve been using just oil paints for a month. I’m not ditching the acrylics or inks, but wanted to grasp a feel for this new buttery greasy feeling paint with new techniques, experiments and stronger deeper paintings. But I have found I’m working just like I did with acrylics and inks. Am I meant to just use acrylics and inks as I can get the effect I want or will oils give me a new repetoire and more subtlety and depth to my work? I felt like I needed to see some great art for inspiration and when the invitation to Don’s cousins book launch in Dublin landed in my inbox, it felt like Dublin may be the perfect place to find it.
Cheap flights, a cheapish (nowhere is cheap in Dublin) hotel with a great location so we could walk everywhere. we arrived with a list of the major art galleries and museums.
Don spent a lot of his late teens and early twenties here, so it was a trip down memory lane for him. The major sites haven’t changed, but the city has grown and very much become a tourist destination now. The last time we both visited was eight years ago with Annie Kent. My memory of it for one short day, was of intense disappointment at the drab and grey of the city with very high brick buildings, so this time I went with no expectations.
This time Temple Bar felt vibrant and colourful with some great eateries and the Grafton Street area still felt authentic. Dublin is easy to get around using the tram or on foot with several bridges crossing the Liffey.
The National Gallery had incredible works on display and so varied for it’s timeline and style. Loved the modern portrait exhibition there and although not my thing, learnt from it.
The highlight, The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) was quite a walk so I might suggest the tram to the nearest stop. It had fabulous gardens and changes exhibition frequently. The current exhibition of ‘Coast Lines’ featured several Cornish artists. Just to see the scale of work and get up close is always worth going in person. Art really feeds the soul.
Nick Walker detail
We also revisited Dublin City Gallery and worth a visit any time to see the permanent glass encased studio of Francis Bacon. Has to be seen to be believed!
The colourful streets of Temple Bar
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
The 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…..
First layers of acrylic inks , sky and distant coastline all forming
Add more form to the rocks
Add details and light to the waves
sparkle and movement with paint spatters
dragging whites and greys to layer water and light
October Light, Duckpool
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.