Galleries - September 2018

12 GALLERIES SEPTEMBER 2018 It is coming up to almost a century of intense artistic activity in St Ives, and in such a small town, it is hardly surprising that a number of persistent myths have become embedded in that history, myths that are only now, as the 'classic' late 1930s-40s generation have all gone, just beginning to be untangled and de-romanticised. Too many myths to take them all on here, but at the heart of the matter perhaps is how the place actually operated as a collective of artists. Popular legend has them all meeting up in the harbourside pubs and talking art, French Impressionist style, though one of them, Dennis Mitchell, used to tell a rather different story, one that centered less around sociability and more around cheap (very) accommodation and studio space – and a good deal more interaction with the London art scene than is usually given credit. A number of excellent exhibitions mounted to coincide with this month's St Ives Festival would seem to underline this last point (as do, indirectly, some of the permanent displays and temporary exhibitions, Patrick Heron especially at Tate St Ives). In particular there are two shows that link St Ives' 70 year old exhibiting society, the Penwith Gallery, with its 106 year old London counterpart, the London Group. The first, at Penwith, involves a straight swap of spaces with some 75 London Group artists while a slightly smaller number of Penwith members are showing at the London Group's London base, The Cello Factory. It revives nicely a rather older connection which saw many St Ives based artists exhibiting over the years in London Group shows, a link that is in fact being explored in the second show, Belgrave St Ives’ superb 'The London Group – the St Ives Connection' which reveals just how many significant St Ives’ artists retained close London connections (and vice versa) over the years via their membership of the London Group. Patrick Heron, Keith Vaughan, Terry Frost, William Scott, Barbara Hepworth and Alan Davie are just some of the stand out names here though it is often some other now rather less familiar figures – David Haughton, Tom Cross and Robert Adams among them – that bring home the depth of the links between London and St Ives artists' worlds. Add to this a number of distinguished London Group names from the Belgrave's London days – it opened in 1974 – such as Frank Auerbach, John Piper and John Bratby and you have a rich treasure trove of post- war British art, not to mention an important reminder of the major role a particularly intelligent commercial gallery can play in sustaining and developing contemporary artists' careers. Another St Ives story is told this month at New Craftsman Gallery with the first UK exhibition of Matthew Lanyon’s work since his untimely death (just 65) in 2016. The show title ‘Faster Than Words: Older Than Thought’ is a quote taken from Matthew’s writing on his own work. An important artist for Cornwall in his own right, his father, Peter Lanyon, was of course a major figure at the centre of the modern abstract movement. A poignant autobiographical tract on the gallery’s website recalls “while I was tearing round the garden as Davy Crockett, movers and shakers of art (ie Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo) were passing the sugar and spreading the cream.” Peter Lanyon also died prematurely at just 46 in a gliding accident, an incident which “came into me like an ocean.” Highlights of this important show include the painting ‘Wreck of the Torrey Canyon (or Crude Oil)’ and ‘An Altar Piece for West Penwith’, a first showing in Cornwall of the stained-glass triptych which was his final finished work . A nice adjunct to the St Ives and London Group shows meanwhile is provided by the Tregony Gallery (Truro) whose exhibition this .. ‘persistent myths have become embedded . . .’ rt the West above: M atthew Lanyon ‘Wreck of the Torrey Canyon’ New Craftsman Gallery