Getting to Krowji on a Sunday in December by public transport is a time-consuming business. Servicing the railway and circuitous bus routes turn a simple trip into an epic voyage. At least it affords time to see more new supermarkets, innovative centres in Pool and glimpses of neo-classical architecture in the grand manner. The upper stories of the façades remind one of the prosperity of this area in its heyday.
Upon arrival, the bohemian atmosphere in The Melting Pot Cafe, the warmth and the leek and potato soup help to revive after the lengthy journey. The wall of clocks and masques and surreal paraphernalia suggest that a cabaret is about to begin and indeed there is a pianist in cap and bells already upon the stage. This has a timeless and dreamy ambience quite unique and sui generis.
Moving around the crowded studios, there was a buzz which always seems stronger here where the art is being produced than visiting a gallery. I was particularly attracted to the work of Linda Crane -printmaking and painting but also small sculptures -including a small head which I thought reminiscent of Giacometti. The angular and elongated forms, the expressionist use of paint and the dramatic drawings were intriguing and attractive. My impression too was as though I felt a resonance both with Kokoschka and El Greco. Her work may be seen at http://www.sulisfineart.com/search/page/2?q=Linda+Crane and also at http://www.outsidein.org.uk/linda-crane where I was surprised to read of her work being in Penzance at the Redwing Gallery.
I think the fact that her atelier was empty increased my fascination with her display and her portfolio.I think my recent travels may also have influenced my susceptibilities. It is also interesting to research the influence of El Greco on Expressionism- as in the recent exhibition El Greco und die Moderne.(Dusseldorf 2012 http://www.smkp.de/en/exhibitions/archive/2012/el-greco.html)
As the winter storms hit Penzance, so does that great painter of storms, steam and whirling chaos, Joseph Mallord William Turner. Not the great English Romantic himself of course, whose late works are currently at the Tate Britain in London until January 25th next year, but as a film, Mr Turner, by Mike Leigh and in the form of an exhibition currently on view in Penzance Public Library, Turner and Me painted by Vaughan Warren R.A.S. Ancillary works by Vaughan are also on view on the first floor of The Arcade in Chapel Street.
In a year of sombre reflection upon the futility of war, the appearance of original films like Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall and Mr Turner, are inspiring visually. The technique of Loach and Leigh, both of whom use improvisation as a means to authenticity, is inspiring and instructive. Mr Turner has renewed interest in a rumbustious, querulous figure and promises to be exciting viewing. Turner was a protean traveller and visited Cornwall and painted the local landscape including Mounts Bay and the Tamar Valley. Sketches at St Ives established him, according to some authorities, as the founder of the painting tradition there. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-st-ives-from-porthminster-beach-d41327 Timothy Spall, an exceptional actor and a keen sailor brings his talent and determination to portraying Turner in both his vitality and in his melancholy moods.
Vaughan Warren http://vaughanwarren.weebly.com/ has a tremendous enthusiasm for Turner and has won the Turner Award himself, as well as the Reynolds Medal and Landseer Award. He also has a track record of interest in the history of art which informs his work at a deep level. He also has an interest in local history. He has, himself, put together an interesting film 2003 with Window Box productions on the strained life of the Cornish antiquarian, John Blight. He and his partner Melanie Camp share an enthusiasm for Daphne Du Maurier’s novels and in particular Rebecca and its associated film which was, of course a Hitchcock classic. This has provided the inspiration for an Acrylic, a medium which Vaughan assures us Turner would have loved, The Wreck of the Rebecca, which appears in the current show. Vaughan Warren has found much inspiration too in the work of Julius Olsson, whose contribution in St Ives is the subject of much intriguing study by David Tovey, as well as Whistler, Mondrian and Kandinsky. The latter was an acquaintance of Naum Gabo, who also worked locally, is famous for his writings on the spiritual in art. Warren declares too his intention to strive,” towards an abstract beauty through paint and the image”.
The Victorian restrained grandeur of the public library in Penzance makes for a suitable context for Vaughan’s Turner inspirations. However, because they have to be mounted so high up above the installed illumination, they are not as visible as they might be. It is a reminder that despite the town having many galleries there is limited space in which even experienced artists can display. Turner’s palette is of great interest to Vaughan Warren and more details can be found at http://www.winsornewton.com/uk/discover/articles-and-inspiration/palettes-of-the-masters-jmw-turner
In the current display three works particularly appealed to me. The acrylic on canvas of St Michael’s Mount predominates because of its free use of colour. I also greatly liked small watercolour called Turneresque. It almost goes without saying that this painter shows great facility in all three mediums. The two pictures which are mounted in oval frames make a refreshing change here too. The small painting in the corner which appeals to me most however is Red Interior; Music Room whose contrasting colours remind me a little of Sickert and a little of Gwen John. Anyone who has the opportunity should see the film and Vaughan Warren’s work in Penzance.
In addition to the works displayed in the library there is an opportunity to view Vaughan’s drawing of Nelson’s death mask at the Redwing Gallery, Wood Street in Penzance. The display in Penzance Library may be viewed until mid-December.
This is a favourite stopping off place where in the midst of all the travel you might enjoy either quiet or a brief encounter; perhaps both. Perhaps, one of the few actual benefits of privatisation, it is filled with transport posters from the 1930s. You can so easily imagine the billowing steam from the last trains which ran on the St Ives Branch line up until the 1970s.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3O7uSD2qlk
Then the music begins, a gentle voice from the past:-
Ah, but when I hate you
Don’t you know it’s ’cause I love you
That’s how I am, so what can I do?
I’m happy when I’m with you
I never mind the rain from the skies,
As long as I see the sun shinging in your eyes
Don’t you know that
Sometimes I love you, sometimes I hate you
Ah, but when I hate you
That’s because I love you
That’s how I am, so what can I do?
I’m happy when I’m with
So happy when I’m with
I’m happy when I’m with you
In this panoramic view of two Cornish families spanning two centuries all sorts of characters make an appearance. Not only are we educated in the ambience of English Merchants in Portugal but people as diverse as Southey, William M.Thackery, John Lemon and Canning, to mention but a few, all make an appearance. It begins by relating the making of a fortune by William Stephens, grandson of the Vicar of Menheniott and an enterprising genius. Her is the story of a merchant who becomes a manufacturer of glass.
William was educated at Exeter Free Grammar School, having left the area near Saltash, where he grew up. He went on to serve on the Lisbon packets upon arrival in Portugal became involved with the intrigues of Carvahlo, the Marquis of Pombal. He was next to witness the destruction of Lisbon by the great earthquake in 1755. As Jenifer Roberts interestingly points out, high waves from the latter were still above 8 foot when they made boats in St Ives rise more than eight feet. Then William opened a glass factory in Marinha Grande and securing exemption from taxes, charmed princes and queens so as to build a fabulous fortune.
The profits from the Stephens fortune passed also into the hands of their Lyne relations also living in both Portugal and Cornwall. The author outlines the family history, which involves wars and rebellions and diverting interludes. Eventually some of the fortune ends up in the hands of a feisty French ballerina and into the hands of various lawyers settling claims upon it. This is a splendid tale, well written and for those who find truth stranger than fiction, a great historical and biographical account.