Published 2nd January 2018
A recent visit to The Tate in St Ives was a timely reminder of the contribution that community of artists made to the story of British Art in the 20th Century.
I still find the brutal modernism of the building a challenge, especially in terms of a flowing passage through the collection and exhibitions, but the paintings and artworks still do most of the talking.
Alfred Wallis really does make sense alongside Ben Nicholson and the importance of the museum is underlined by the international significance of a huge Barbara Hepworth bronze. The current exhibition is Rebecca Warren's All That Heaven Allows and this is well worth a visit, if only as a reminder of the challenges of "Contemporary Art".
One particular large sculpture consisting of metal sheets arranged in various planes was close to a small group of school children who had left their coats and bags on a chair in a corner while they sketched. This pile had been mistaken for part of the exhibition by a group of visitors who were looking for a label nearby to help them work it out. Hey Ho, Modern Art ...
My favourite painting in the Tate is William Scott's 1960s composition called Berlin Blues 4. Scott spent a scholarship year in Berlin in the 1960s and this painting was one of a group of pictures started there using a particular pigment discovered by him in the city. Scott commented that the spatial relationships in his compositions had become more symmetrical and in the mid-1960s he simplified and clarified his paintings using bolder shapes. The Tate's Berlin Blue 4 is an attention grabbing, mesmerising and warming work with floating and shimmering blue shapes that resonate in the conscious and sub-conscious too.
Inspired by The Tate, in the Spring we have an Auction Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Pictures & Sculpture with Studio Pottery & Design with a number of works by major Cornish artists.
Estimated at £12,000-£15,000 is a triptych by Terry Frost titled Lustful Blue. The three strongly composed canvases, which were exhibited at The Royal Academy in 2003, form a dramatic blast of saturated colour.
Another iconic Frost composition is the Swing Blue screenprint that has an estimate of £1,000-£1,500 and this is one of another four smaller works by the artist.
In the sale there are also two original works by the Modernist designer and painter John Tunnard who taught at the Penzance School or Art up until the 1960s. In the tradition of Alfred Wallis, Tunnard worked briefly as a fisherman and coastguard and his later work was well described in the 2010 Retrospective at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester entitled John Tunnard: Inner Space to Outer Space, that explored the themes of abstraction, music and surrealism, nature and landscape, science and space. The two works on offer in this sale Flying Fish and an Abstract Form are estimated at £3,000-£5,000 and £700-£900 respectively.
Among the Design items on offer is a Cassina Red & Blue Zig Zag Chair after a 1918 original by Gerrit Rietveld. The chair is estimated at £200-£300 and if you don't love the chair you may Love the silver-topped Marmite jar which is estimate at £50-£80.
So currently there are no piles of satchels and blazers in the sale but to cap-off a great few hours at The Tate, we arrived fortuitously on what they excitedly called a 'Super Sunday' (which I thought had something to do with Premiership Football), and the entrance fee was just £1 – Happy Days.