Museums, memories and myth making.

Written by the daughter of Guido Morris, the famous St Ives printer and illustrator. A fascinating mélange of her family and personal archive with the changing history of museums. It emphasises the importance of touch as a means of recollecting the past.

In reading about museums I discovered that Derrida had written about archives. He develops a post modern approach to how the perspectives on the past are subject to change. Witness the recent debates about racism and colonialism in relation to this.

From My Archives: Derrida’s Archive Fever

There are two moving poems by Louis MacNeice that moved me when I read them this morning. The first was an early poem called just “Museums” with a pronounced rhyme scheme. The second is more interesting and called “In the Reading Room at the British Museum”. The final line is perhaps more poignant than ever.

Museums by MacNeice

Museums offer us, running from among the buses,
A centrally heated refuge, parquet floors and sarcophaguses,
Into whose tall fake porches we hurry without a sound
Like a beetle under a brick that lies, useless, on the ground.
Warmed and cajoled by the silence the cowed cypher revives,
Mirrors himself in the cases of pots, paces himself by marble lives,
Makes believe it was he that was the glory that was Rome,
Soft on his cheek the nimbus of other people’s martyrdom,
And then returns to the street, his mind an arena where sprawls
Any number of consumptive Keatses and dying Gauls.

 

 

Sketches from Windows

When I think of paintings from interiors of the scene beyond, I tend to think of the South of France,of Dufy or perhaps Matisse. There is something too which reminds me of looking out from a safe place to the activity beyond. It recalls hours in childhood, perhaps when bored watching the summer visitors who looking lost were exploring the cobbled hill outside, often looking somewhat lost themselves.

The above is a view in an Oxford suburb into the garden with trees and a bird-feeder beyond.

This is a view from an upstairs window in Cornwall. The rubber plant has not survived my feckless care unfortunately.

This is a view from the Newlyn Art Gallery cafe which has a splendid large window overlooking the Mount and Bay.

A sea view at Christmas 

A friend has sent me this useful link-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Man_at_His_Window

Remembering Red Barnaloft

I have previously posted about Red Vienna – the time in the 1930s when an attempt was made to establish a form of social security system in the elegant city and when worker’s flats were built to ease the conditions of poorer citizens. Notoriously, they were shelled by nationalists in the dark period leading up to the Anschluss when the Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany. https://jacobinmag.com/2017/02/red-vienna-austria-housing-urban-planning

Karl Polanyi wrote: “Vienna achieved one of the most spectacular cultural triumphs of Western history … an unexampled moral and intellectual rise in the condition of a highly developed industrial working class which, protected by the Vienna system, withstood the degrading effects of grave economic dislocation and achieved a level never reached before by the masses of the people in any industrial society.”

In my personal psychogeography towns and cities remind me of St Ives where I spent many years of my early life. After the gas works was deconstructed and I think, before the Tate arrived many of the fisherman’s lofts and artist studios next to Porthmeor Beach were replaced by the Barnaloft and then the Piazza flats. They seemed to stand out as a statement of the modernism with which the town had been associated. The interior courtyard of the latter had an interesting Hepworth sculpture. They were not by any means worker’s flats but were frequently occupied by what has since been called champagne socialists.

Properties for Sale in St. Ives, Barnaloft St. Ives Cornwall | Nethouseprices.com

Before the flats were constructed there was the beach cafe occupied by the Val Baker family. This was a homely venue offering a superb view of the sea and marvellous sunsets over it to the West. Little was seen of Denys himself whom I assumed was upstairs with leonine head bent over the typewriter. Denys may be somewhat forgotten but represented the spirit of bohemian values to the locals. He had been active in promoting the celtic culture as a Welshman intrigued by Cornwall and St Ives in particular. He and his wife were committed to pacifism and had been active in the committee of 100. https://www.rainydaygallery.co.uk/denysvalbaker.html

100 years of Red Vienna - VIENNA – Now. Forever

The Foot family has been long associated with St Ives. Issac Foot, bibliophile and liberal politician as well as a staunch Methodist stood in the town for Parliament. That by-election was rather interesting in the troubled atmosphere of 1937 and very narrow indeed. Isaac Foot went on to become Mayor of Plymouth.

Left Foot Forward | The Isis

Paul Foot his grandson and active contributor to Private Eye was often to be seen around the town. He was an active and intelligent member of the Socialist Worker’s Party as well as a campaigning journalist with a splendid sense of humour. He died rather young and was a notable loss to radical progress in this country. His book on Red Shelley is a moving introduction to that committed poet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Foot_(journalist)

 

Also some years ago spontaneous outdoor performances were given by another group associated with the Foot family-The Footsbarn Theatre Group. These were jolly and musical. Particularly memorable was a performance in St Ives Guildhall of Around the World in Eighty Days with a scence at the Old Bore’s Club which was gloriously funny -a tour de force.

Which leaves us with the intriguing figure of Peter Shore. Any Freudian would not be surprised that given his name he might have been strongly attracted by the glorious beach at Porthmeor. I used to see him taking his morning beverage be-shorted high above the sands at Barnaloft. These buildings were designed by the St Ives Architect, Cyril Gilbert- a shy charming gentleman who later ran the superb Wills Street Gallery near the Police Station. I digress- Shore was a fascinating figure who it seems travelled from the intellectual left of the party to total opposition to what was then called the Common Market. He was for some time an active M.P. for Stepney. Apparently he acted in a sort of Alistair Campbell role in that he advised on media promotion. I well remember how he responded when interviewed later in his career by someone like Robin Day or Brian Walden. He would begin by rephrasing the question and pointing out the precise strength of the case to which he was opposed. It was about then to be devastated by the power of his retort. However, in the questioning this just didn’t happen due to the interviewer’s interruption.  You were left with the impression of his honesty and rather sad disappointment. And yet now I feel a little more straight honesty in political matters is crucial- a Balm of Gilead.

Sometimes it is salutary to hear what the opposite case – this clip exudes English chauvinism which is deeply misguided.

Mousehole on a Summer Evening -A Guest Posting

Many tangential thoughts on Mousehole on a summer evening –

I went to Mousehole this evening – it is of course an enclave and playground for the rich, consisting now almost entirely of holiday and second homes, which I noticed more than ever before. Still, I’ve always loved it there – perhaps the way and reasons I do are part of the problem.

The atmosphere is all loveliness and lingering warmth. The ice cream shop is still open. It’s crowded but there’s no hurry. Doors and windows are left open – cars left parked in the middle of the street. It’s not full of any old tourists either (this isn’t Penzance we’re talking about) and as it was late many of them will have been staying there. Wealth and the ease that comes with it was everywhere. An endless leisurely parade passed by, whilst their manner and the cut of their clothes silently shouted at me.

I watched, in what felt like slow-motion, as a thin woman in the whitest white jeans (clearly so expensive they managed not to look tacky, a feat) hesitantly starts to lower herself onto the harbour steps before realising she has a blanket in the house – no don’t worry, it’s literally 30 seconds away. A balding man carries a full glass of red wine out of a house further down the cobbled street to better enjoy the view, another follows with the bottle.

And all at once I realised I was feeling a discomfort that wasn’t only coming from insecurity to jealousy or general misanthropy. I mean I expected all this, it’s bloody August and I took the bus to bloody Mousehole. I went because I thought it would be beautiful on a summer evening. And really – awful realities aside – how can I fault others for wanting to see beauty?

But – that beauty is somehow flattened and now it doesn’t stand up on its own.

(I had a similar feeling when I was young on holidays in France – some of the places we went to felt curiously empty, though full of people. I’d tell myself – this is so beautiful – you should be feeling something here, finding something here. But some substance or context had gone. And I felt a guilt I couldn’t define, as though I was the reason. It was like visiting a model town, a perfect replica in every way but still a replica. And we would think – what a lovely change, to travel, to go away – what might we learn from this place, how might it change us. Still, we have paid to be here, this room was built for us to stay in – so, how lovely is the view we see, how good is the food we eat. Was it disappointing or would you recommend it to a friend? And there again was the emptiness that we’d brought).

So, this evening in Mousehole that valuable sea-view felt like something that was owned and hollowed. And I was colluding in it, and had to look away.

I’d never felt more strongly a ghost of somewhere with an identity, with continuity, the ghosts of lives lived and shaped by place, of real homes and a strong landscape with a beauty that’s incidental, of a sea that defines and encloses rather than being set back and seen. I’ve never felt more intensely that the place I was visiting was not that – because of us it was something and somewhere else.

And all I could do was sit on a bench, wearing clothes that until then I’d thought were smart, eating a pasty in a manner that would make a dog excuse himself from the table – pausing only to angrily brush chunks of potato off my jumper – and stare inland. Thinking about a place that loses itself over and over again, a summer at a time – and wondering how long even a ghost would be able to stay.

( Post from I V-W with thanks)

 

Reading Padraic Fallon

  1. Fallon (1905-1974) came from lovely County Galway and was drawn to Dublin by George Russell (AE) to take part in the Irish Literary Revival. Heaney wrote of him “His sensibility has weathered in Galway the rainy light that was familiar to both Rafferty and Yeats; it has been tutored by a landscape at once elemental and historical; a landscape that holds the walled demesne and the tower as well as the bog-face and the stone wall…”

I came across this poem entitled YESTERDAY’S MAN which contained the following lovely and intriguing stanzas:-

Lines of verse too left littering

After poems that never got away,

A pen drawing, very odd, the storm God Zu

Trusses in his fowl form to a carrying pole;

(From him the wren-walk on St Stephen’s Day)

 

Copied I suppose, to prove a point,

(Akkadian seal, Babylonian cylinder?) How

Much at home I am in this mad world

Suddenly and again! And here somewhere

You the girl enter

 

Anonymously, in two wooden stanzas, into which

You have entirely disappeared. Words, words,

That’s all you are, girl who never

Was a lover. And I likened you,

Body I could see through, to a catapult

The poem concerns itself with writing poetry and the poet looking through his notebooks and considering lost loves, regret and all in a stormy atmosphere. I like the variation between detail , here about the paraphernalia of writing and the vagueness…”here somewhere”. The latter representing ageing disorientation.

More on Fallon may be found at preview.co.uk where Seamus Heaney has written an appreciation and quotes some lines about Lands End.

 

 

 

 

“Bronte Territories” by Melissa Hardie-an Appreciation

The Brontë sisters with their brother, Branwell, in a painting by him called the Gun Group Portrait.

Wandering down Chapel Street in Penzance, you cannot fail to recognise that you have entered that part of town where history feels close-by. The sea in the distance, the church and the chapel architecture is impressive, the Turk’s Head Tavern and the baroque wonder of the Egyptian House, the Portuguese consulate and almost opposite the house where George Eliot stayed waiting for calm weather for her voyage to the Scillies. Reading Melissa’s book is like taking a similar peregrination through lost corridors of time to recover a sense of the rich liveliness of Penwith’s past. Welcome to the psychogeography of Bronte’s Territories.

The Brontes are still much in the news. The Irish Times, just two weeks ago, were reporting on the O.U.P. computer analysis of Wuthering Heights apparently confirming it to be the work of Emily and not, as had been suggested, that of her brother Branwell. Iconoclasm may be in vogue. However, a square in Brussels – the city where two of the Bronte sisters studied French – is to be named in honour of the literary siblings. Other authors make claim to curious events in Shropshire in the early years of the 19th century drew the parents of genius together. It is to the intellectual and feminine furore of Penzance and its inspiring hinterland that Hardie’s work appropriately returns us.

In a key chapter on the literature and legend of Cornwall from 1760 much mention is made of the intriguing and taciturn figure of Joseph Carne, a geologist of great renown and an energetic banker. His personality was such that he combined a skill with numbers with a strong Methodist belief and mixed in a variety of literary circles. Nearby Falmouth was a key port for the Packet boats recorded in the poetry and memoirs of Byron and Southey. It too was the home of the Quaker family of Foxes who founded the Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1832. Carne was a friend and shared their Non-Conformist beliefs. Hardie shows how Carne encouraged his daughter in her geological studies and mentions the doctors, engineers, vicars and scientists whose cultural sources were enriched by contacts which included Bretons, Huguenots, Hessians as well as a significant Jewish community. She reminds us that in reading Davy, for example, we encounter not just a socially beneficent scientist, a traveller and a poet. This is the endowment the Branwell sisters took to Haworth.

It is interesting to consider that within this Cornish background at this period there were a number of competing beliefs and attitudes. There were the mythical beliefs fostered from folklore- piskies and stories in the expiring Cornish language. There was the old religion of Rome not far beneath the surface. Yet there were also new discoveries especially in medicine and geology that fostered a scientific empiricism. This can be seen in figures such as Davies Gilbert to whom this book gives due prominence- a polymath, mathematician, engineer and President of the Royal Society and a wonderful diarist to boot. William Temple much later stated, “The Church exists primarily for the sake of those who are still outside it. It is a mistake to suppose that God is only, or even chiefly, concerned with religion.” It was the evangelical zeal of the Wesley brothers and their belief in education, temperance combined with stunningly beautiful hymns. It was also a challenge to superstition. It is often said it averted revolution which France and later Peterloo portended.

Melissa Hardie shows us the other supportive factors that came into this heady mixture and sustained the Branwells and flowered in the Bronte’s work. These are twofold; the societies and the family or kinship links. The Penzance Ladies Reading group who carefully studied together a stunning variety of literature from the classics of the Ancients to the contemporary travel writings. Not forgetting the subversive eloquence of Lord Byron, a gentleman with Cornish links through the Trevanions. The founding of libraries and collection of artefacts had practical even economic benefits. The Royal Cornwall Geological Society studies into metallic intrusions assisted the efficiency of mining. Local banks provided the capital for further developments in the industry as well as the magnificent Wesleyan Chapels that the Carnes, Branwells and Battens founded and fostered.

The author has researched both land and legacy extensively. Her approach is frequently imaginative and sometimes speculative. This is a strength because she is also at pains to inform the reader of the limitations of the evidence. Footnotes and suggested reading in themselves are useful but the illustrations are worthy of pondering- several works of art in themselves. They add significant detail. This patient work by Melissa supported by other members of the resplendent Hypatia Trust must be counted as filling a deep fissure, or as we might say in Cornwall, a zawn in Bronte Studies.

See also from the Guardian –

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/29/bronte-grandfather-smuggling-past-financed-books-charlotte-emily-anne

 

A house in Downalong in St Ives

Bethesda Hill toward Porthminster, St. Ives

Bethesda Hill

(The Pool of Bethesda was a pool in Jerusalem known from the New Testament story of Jesus miraculously healing a paralysed man, from the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, where it is described as being near the Sheep Gate, surrounded by five covered colonnades or porticoes.)

This cobbled hill leads down to the harbour and affords a view of the pier and the more recent lighthouse at the end. These are fisherman’s cottages essentially, and there was a sail loft- now Bradbury’s architects with a small raised forecourt from which artists would frequently paint the attractive view. Fore-sand is just at the bottom of the Hill and very popular with tourists. Just to the right of the exit at the bottom was an area often occupied by a horse and cart selling vegetables. Yet another horse and cart was used for unloading the catch of fish directly from the punts- very useful in this tidal harbour. The horse had no problem in a depth of water of the order of a metre. The catch was weighed at the platform in front of the Sloop- an area now completely occupied by the customers. The small weigh-house is still there; now entirely unknown except to a small number of locals.

The house itself backed onto a concrete lined fish cellar, into part of which, coal was delivered by Bennetts merchants and sold by the hundred weight. Its price, a constant source of worry for my parents. As far as I can recall, the house was purchased from my Uncle around about 1953 though I had slept there before whilst my Mother had to go suddenly into West Cornwall for an appendix operation. I think she was in hospital for some two weeks or so and probably operated upon by Mr White, the esteemed surgeon who perfected his skills in the Western Desert.

The coal cellar under the house occupied much of my time in childhood. It had my father’s tool kit – he had worked as a plumber and an aircraft fitter during the war. The was a steel ARP helmet and a washday mangle which became my “spaceship”, but I had been well drilled in health and safety. The lighting and ventilation were poor. I should perhaps explain that when my parents moved in, there was no bath and no hot water. Mr Brian Stevens, now a distinguished St Ives historian assisted in the building of a kitchen and bathroom at the rear of the property. My father installed a boiler system behind one of the coal fires and this was supplemented by a cylinder with an immersion heater. This rapidly used up 2-shilling pieces in the coin slot meter. Every time this ran out, my Mother would ask, “Where was Moses when the lights went out?”

It is perhaps worth mentioning that the walls between houses were very thin. We could easily hear, each Sunday evening our neighbour’s son playing Elvis whilst his parents were at Chapel. The small house was overfilled with visitors for many years and sometimes we all had to sleep downstairs. This was the era of Bed and Breakfast when everywhere was packed during for instance, Swindon week when railway workers had free transport to St Ives.

The Hill had two or three interesting features. There was a small meeting house tucked away in a small courtyard which was said to be used by a small Jewish community. There was at the top of the Hill on the way to the Island several larger guest houses and a shop where I was frequently sent where saffron cake was cooked each week and sold, there was often a long ash on the cigarette of the gentleman stirring the mixture and I often wondered if it fell in with the other ingredients. Cheese was sliced through by a wire and quarter a pound of sweets served into small paper bags from large tin boxes which had glass lids. On the doorstep milk was delivered in glass bottles and potato skins collected from a bin regularly by the “pig-man” in return at Christmas we sometimes received a pork joint. Ray (Skate) wings were often hung up for a day or two -said to improve its taste but also attractive to flies.

Monday was wash-day and sheets would sometimes be taken to the Island to dry. At this time there were some difficulties as fisherman used much the same space for drying freshly tarred nets!! The fisherman’s loft above Porthgwidden Beach -close to where Sven Berlin once worked was where the netting was stored. During the war, camouflage nets were made here and in the early 60s there grew a cottage industry in making up Brussel sprout bags with thick cord drawstrings. I remember helping my Mum a little by carrying rolls of 100 nets for which she was paid just a penny, I think. I would also load up bone needles- cut by my Father’s fret-working skills from ribs-with string. I could do a number of these quite quickly. The string was bound the thick cord around the net which was suspended from a cup-hook at a convenient height in the wooden door frame.

We left left the house which then still had round pin 15 Amp plugs in 2002. It is now, I think, an Air B’n’b cottage and house prices are currently above a third of a million.

 

 

Thoughts on history in the making

We seem currently to be going through a period of iconoclasm which has an interesting history itself. One of my favourite plays is “Forty Years On” by Alan Bennett. It often seems to me that British, and particularly English, society resembles some sort of minor public school. Hence I can easily hear John Gielgud intoning Ecclesiastes 44-1:-

Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. 2The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning. 3Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies: 4Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions.

Now, when I googled this a moment ago, I discovered that the first six words of the title refers to a book written some 75 years ago by Agee and Evans with photographs of tenant farmers and their dreadful plight in the depression. The verse from Ecclesiastes was obscured and immediately raises the question about how the meaning of the past can be changed or indeed obscured. It also raises the questions about for whom history might be written, recorded or commemorated.

However, before examining the text, consider the last sentence….” meet For the people, WISE and ELOQUENT are their instructions”. Well it would be nice if the present incumbents of the senior management team were wise and concerned for the people and by no means can the repetitive bumbling be described as eloquence.

(Incidentally, I remember hearing that controversial Cornishman D.M. Thomas remarking once that we had moved from reading Isaiah to watching dire television in two generations!)

Now before we start praising famous men, let alone building statues to them, we also need to consider women and children. The statue which really brought pimples to the skin and still does was near the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin which shows those children going to the West in the Kindertransport and those from whom they have been sundered, facing the death camps in the East. Then, also very moving is the statue by Kathe Kollwitz. This sculpture is under an oculus and exposed to the rain, snow and cold symbolising the suffering of civilians during World War II. It is a pieta- a woman with her dead child. She had lost her son, Peter on the battlefield in the First World War.

At this point I should like to recommend a book and close with a couple of quotations which I think are worth pondering. The book is by Rachel Hewitt and is called “A Revolution in Feeling” It deals with the changes of feelings during the 1790s. To quote from the dust jacket;” Every society in every age, feels differently, and from the seismic shifts of the 1790s Britain emerged the contours of our contemporary attitude to need, longing and emotion”.

Now from that complex but original thinker Walter Benjamin, This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

WALTER BENJAMIN, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Here we return to eloquence again, a reminder that style in historical writers engage our interest from Hazlitt-

The history of mankind is a romance, a mask, a tragedy, constructed upon the principles of POETICAL JUSTICE; it is a noble or royal hunt, in which what is sport to the few is death to the many, and in which the spectators halloo and encourage the strong to set upon the weak, and cry havoc in the chase, though they do not share in the spoil.

WILLIAM HAZLITT, Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays

Finally

Finally, I listened to a radio programme last night about refugees in camps across the Channel in France desperate to escape persecution and many of them, children in conditions cramped as in a slave ship. What are we going to do to alleviate their situation?

When German trains saved Jewish kids - EXBERLINER.com

Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture 'Mother with her Dead Son', Neue Wache ...

Notes

On Iconoclasm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Iconoclasm

There may be elements of magical thinking in relation to monuments as clearly their destruction does not entail the erasure of the past or the racist structures still in existence. It might be argued that in their removal they can become instrumental towards that aim. Some may also consider that they are works of art which raises further questions about aesthetics – content and form etc.

 

 

West Penwith by Adrian Stokes

This poem interests me and looks fairly simple – let us  consider one or two lines and see if we can explore some more deeply. Indeed, this is a poem about surfaces and depth with a number of words that suggest rest- abolish pace, slow, apart and torpor. There is too a general feeling for sculpture as is expressed in his remarks about stone and it’s weathering or erosion by water. Details about Stokes may be found at his Wikipedia entry where it states about his early writing;” In The Quattro Cento he characterized the intense Early Renaissance feeling for material and space as ‘mass-effect’ and ‘stone-blossom’. The stone—deeply respected as a medium – is, he said, ‘carved to flower’ thereby bringing to the surface the fantasies the artist reads in its depths.” Let us continue to dig beneath the surface of these lines.

There seems to be a general feeling of relief perhaps reflecting Stokes returning to Cornwall. The lines about outhouses and stone retrace unmeagre time seems somewhat demanding. Does this mean that such structures seem and suggest aeons of time? Meagre is a synonym for sparse. So this may mean that the scene implies the extensive nature of time. As Stokes studied philosophy, then it is quite possible that some sort of Bergsonian concept of time.{See https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0004s9w }

In the next line herd is somewhat unusual- maybe the light from the shining mica in the granite is being collected by the eye. It also is a homophone for heard which brings a whimsical feeling of  synaesthesia together with the metal clang of time colliding with rhyme. In the next stanza there is hoard and heart which may be associated with the unusual word hurd, the coarse parts of flax or hemp that adhere to the fiber after it is separated. — called also hards. This sounds very much like the Golden Fleece and adds to the reference to the early Cornish tinners. A milksop is a person who is indecisive and lacks courage. Milksop can be a piece of bread dipped in milk. The flower might mean a milkwort  or just a general term for any flower in a field which may have cows in it!

Cow Dairy Happy Stock Photos - Download 2,051 Royalty Free Photos

The word also brings to mind that Stokes was deeply interested in psychoanalysis and was in fact an analysand of Melanie Klein whose work focused around infantile phantasy at the breast. He was also a friend of Barbara Hepworth whom he brought to St Ives where he lived near The Cornish Arms pub with his wife Margaret Mellis, The feelings of support, skin texture and associated tactile imagery come out in the second section where closeness is increased by the use of our. This underlying emotion of support and nursing passivity brings to an end this interesting poem.

The background about Adrian Stokes and his leading contribution to modernism in St Ives may be found at https://www.stivesart.info/lyrical-light/

A useful discussion on Margaret Mellis is at http://www.artcornwall.org/interviews/Margaret_mellis.htm

The Outwardness of Art: Selected Writings of Adrian Stokes: Amazon ...

 

Harry Ousey-Neglected Colourist amongst the St Ives Artists

 

Very recently I attended an intriguing talk by Sue Astles, Ousey’s neice about this little known Northern  Artist. I found myself wondering just how such a brilliant colourist could seemingly be rather overlooked. Further information and background can be found at

https://www.lancashirelife.co.uk/out-about/harry-ousey-exhibition-at-the-salford-museum-and-art-gallery-1-4082392

and at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Ousey

There are two possible factors which one might surmise for this aberration. Firstly, it seems that his interest in experimenting in so many various styles may have mitigated his being recognised for any definite style. His restless interest in both conventional and abstract work is not difficult to recognise. There is a certain interest in certain themes such as stone wall construction and the sea horizon. Certain influences seem to be lurking in the background from Miro, Dufy and perhaps Rothko. However, the multiplicity of his painting styles, doubtless including original work, could have inhibited proper recognition.

Such recognition might have been easier if he had access to gallery display. My second point is that I surmise that the influence of more recognised and prominent figures in the St Ives nexus made this difficult. Artists like Denis Mitchell and Terry Frost would have understood this. There was a social class barrier to surmount and I am fairly sure this is a pressure that a less wealthy northern painter would have encountered this even in the more enlightened postwar period. A glass ceiling even amongst progressives and bohemians!

Image result for harry ousey artist

Image result for harry ousey artist

Ousey’s later interest in environmental compositions reminded me also of the not dissimilar work of Margaret Mellis. (Not to be confused on grounds of alliteration with the abstract Penwith artist Marlow Moss!)