Galleries - May 2010

T RIPLE VISION RCA Spare moments in Truro this month could be spent happily at the Royal Cornwall Museum . It has a fascinating permanent col- lection covering Cornish life, its history, wildlife and mineralogy (important in an area that based its wealth on mining) plus a splen- didly eclectic selection of pieces from around the globe – where else could an Egyptian mummy case rub shoulders with a samurai sword, Roman glass and a Whiel- don teapot (just one of a fine col- lection of European ceramics). Until May 29 prints from the Hugh Stoneman Archive illustrate the skill and flair that this master printmaker had for working with artists both international and local (Terry Frost's Orchard Tambourine is here) to produce exquisite works on paper. David Kemp's wry look at our consumer society will de- light just about everyone, espe- cially the young. Constructed from rubbish found around Kemp's Penwith studio – old agricultural ironmongery, redundant tele- phones, plastic waste etc – the bizarre and extraordinary artefacts of the 'Botallack Hoard' are pro- posed as the totems and grave goods of a strange and defunct Iron Age society. Querying, could he touch? I noted a child fondling a dog made entirely of old gum boots; eulogy or epitaph, it's hugely enjoyable. Pip Palmer JEFF LOWE At a moment when sculpture seems to have become more fix- ated with monumentality and artis- tic celebrity and less with the con- sidered pursuit of a serious, per- sonal language, Jeff Lowe’s pow- erfully conceived and immacu- lately rendered space structures hark back, very refreshingly it has to be said, to an altogether more purist age. A student of Caro et al at St Mar- tin’s in the early 70s, Lowe was a willing beneficiary of those New Generation ideals that insisted upon an organic relationship be- tween ‘looking’ and ‘making’, the intuition a sculptor has to develop for those visual discoveries, acci- dents and moments of recognition that shape an artist’s individual voice. It has not made for an easy jour- ney – after the initial breakthrough promised by a show at the Leices- ter Galleries in 1974, Lowe’s ca- reer has tended to prosper more in Europe than the UK – and it says something about London dealers' timidity that Lowe has had to put this show on for himself (at The Gallery in Cork Street ). Enti- tled ‘Building Space’, the variously coated steel rods all the pieces employ do indeed build or draw in space, in the two bigger pieces animating and playing with the more solid structures contained within them. Sculpture for adults. Blake Hall MATTHEW SMITH Matthew Smith’s voluptuous nudes and flower studies are well known; his vibrant landscapes, currently at Crane Kalman, de- serve quite as much recognition. A friend described Smith: ‘On a short acquaintance no one would have suspected, from his mild ex- terior, the hidden fires within.’ His early 1920s’ Cornish landscapes are suffused with the severe, scor- ching Fauvist palette that Smith had partly learned from his tea- cher, Matisse. Roderic O’Conor, whom Smith befriended in 1918, was another strong influence. Smith always claimed that ‘even the reddest and most apparently anti-naturalistic of his Cornish landscapes’ was based on natural conditions – yet the crimsons, viridian greens and indigos of such pictures are imbued with an explosive, claustrophobic force that surely owed much to recent experiences at Ypres and Pass- chendaele, and his determination thereafter to affirm life in his art. Laurie Lee wrote that ‘oil is in- cendiary on your moving brush’. Incendiary but also exquisitely sensitive to every calligraphic cur- licue and nuance of tree, rock, water and cloud in Smith’s 1930s’ French landscapes – whose painterly scope, capable of con- juring up autumnal delicacy and summer’s pristine grandeur, is astounding. Philip Vann 10. GALLERIES MAY 10 Matthew Smith ‘Landscape with Clouds’, oil on canvas, 55 x 66 cm. ©the artists estate. Jeff Lowe ‘Building and Space’, 2009, nickel coated steel, 60 x 60 x 43 cm David Kemp ‘Trundler Sun’ at the Botallack Hoard at the RCM