Galleries - May 2014

Thirty Years On Some thirty years ago Ruth Lambert and her son Andrew bought the Wesleyan Chapel in Machynlleth and started converting it into a hugely successful performing arts auditorium that opened two years later. Then, 6 years on, in 1992, they added an art gallery, MoMA Wales . Despite its title – Museum of Modern Art – it wasn’t welcomed by the public gallery sector in Wales and has largely remained outside that particular pale ever since, its collecting policies seen as too figurative in character. Despite all that, their splendid permanent collection now totals over 200 works by Welsh born or resident artists and badly needs somewhere where at least part of it can be permanently on show at any given time, currently impossible since the existing spaces are needed for the programme of temporary exhibitions that runs throughout the year, so they are busy converting a neighbouring building, The Tannery. One part will be a dedicated Sculpture Space, the other a gallery but – there had to be one! – to finish the work off they need another £130,000. An appeal has been launched: see their website for details – and, if you haven’t been, do go to see the place – 25,000 a year do already . . . specifics of its remote and beautiful rural locale close to the Helford River on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. The first show, by installation artist Lucy Willow seems an inspired choice. Starting on the project two years ago, Willow spent much of her time in Frenchman’s Creek, just 5 minutes walk away and a place (for all its du Maurier connections) of unchanged, ethereal stillness and romantic isolation. A sculptor by training, Willow made the radical decision to start making drawings using Chinese inks and brushes. Inspired by the death of two goldfinches that had flown into the gallery’s windows, it becomes a quietly moving meditation on death and materiality, the drawings on paper having been translated into a continuous, semi-abstracted landscape, drawn in black Chinese inks directly around the gallery walls. At the heart of this landscape and giving it its crucial focus, is a small drawn animation of a dying, and then disintegrating, goldfinch projected on to the landscape – a moment of transience paradoxically exhilarating in its intense remembrance of life. As du Maurier observed in Frenchman’s Creek , “And all this is only momentary, is only a fragment in time that will never come again”. 10 GALLERIES MAY 2014 ANTENNAE Penwith Revamped Founded by leading modernists Hepworth and Nicholson in the 40s but now refurbished and extended, the Penwith Galleries are once again major players in the topography of St Ives. Finds such as a forgotten Althea Garstin painting and a John Milne sculpture have added to the excitement of the redevelopment, but for its members it is the accessibility of the new space which includes a main gallery for monthly mixed exhibitions, the extensive long gallery showing in May paintings by John Piper and Michael Praed, the small studio gallery for work by previous members and the revitalized sculpture garden and café that puts Penwith back on the map and reaffirms its historic and ongoing significance to the story of art in St Ives. Pip Palmer A Fragment in Time Operating as a non-profit making art gallery centre, chiefly through the holiday letting of the imaginatively restored farm buildings nearby has, artistically-speaking, given Kestle Barton certain freedoms in programming and, since it opened a couple of seasons back, the kind of shows it mounts have taken on an increasingly adventurous character. 2014's emphasis is on contemporary artists willing to engage with the from left: Penwith Gallery Interior L ucy Willow painting (photo © Lucie Avrill)