Galleries - May 2016

Founded some 17 years ago by David Durham and Dee Bray, the St Ives Porthminster Gallery has carved out an enviable reputation for itself as showingsome of the best of both 20th century and contemporary Cornish-based art, not so longback winningthe ‘Cornwall Today’ award for Best Art Gallery in the county. Even so, their latest show ‘Collect’, a curated selling exhibition of prominent St Ives and British artists from their own and private collections, is setting the bar pretty high with some stunningworks from bignames, Lanyon, Frost, Blow, Bell, Hilton and Hepworth amongthem. Added to which are some more contemporary works by Lanyon’s extremely gifted second son Matthew and that fine sculptor Margaret Lovell – all worth an early summer trip to this wonderful place in itself. The great survivor of the post-war European Constructivist movement of the 50s and 60s, François Morellet is currently celebratinghis 90th birthday with shows in London at Annely Juda and Mayor Gallery . And neither of these, it should be added, are in the nature of retrospective exhibitions, a good many of the pieces datingfrom the last year or two in fact. Morellet, for some mysterious reason, has never quite enjoyed the reputation here that he has in his native France or the USA where he has been honoured with many major retrospectives over the years, notably at MOMA in New York. With work of such intellectual and aesthetic gravity, inventiveness and purity – as can be seen in these two London shows, it is hard to understand why. He was such a pioneer too, notably in the realm of materials, for example first usingneon light tubingback in the mid-60s, at a time when even avant garde Americans like Bruce Nauman were as yet to catch on. If you don’t know the work yet you’re in for a pleasurable surprise. As Constable observed two centuries ago when criticised for repeatedly paintingthe same landscape of the Stour Valley, he always imagined himself working with a hammer, successfully drivingthe (visual) nail home. Liam Hanley discovered a similar landscape for himself early in his paintingcareer in the mid- 60s, a few square miles of chalk downland near Royston in Hertfordshire, and went on to paint it with a similar tenacity, season in, season out, for the next three decades or more. He has gone on from there to paint other, very different landscapes over the years, most notably his beloved Italy and Britain’s East coast, but the rich, spare style he evolved in those years has remained a point of reference, its comparatively small scale belying the grander nature of his vision. His work has also developed an increasingly abstract character, the sinuous curves of hills, the enigmatic circles of moons, the unnervingly blank walls of dark blue sea providinga poetically nuanced vocabulary of forms with which to construct his subtle explorations. Still paintingbusily some seven decades on, this show at Chappel Galleries provides an excellent, career-longsurvey of a quiet, very English eye. In all the welter of globalised art and international art fairs, it can, paradoxically, often become hard to see what the broad range of visual artists in any one country are actually doingat any given moment. Japan, for example, is one of the world’s major economies but ask any even reasonably well informed person in this country about what they know of Japanese art and they will almost always refer back to S HOWS from left L uke Clennell (1781-1840) ‘Fishermen mending baskets, Isle of Wight’, watercolour and traces of pencil, Martyn Gregory Liam Hanley ‘The Plough’ 1985, mixed media, Chappel Galleries Collect 8 GALLERIES MAY 2016 Minerva Liam Hanley François Morellet