Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Edges of Cornwall...

I enjoyed a family holiday down near the Lizard Point in Cornwall last week. I always enjoy exploring unfamiliar places, and the natural beauty to be found in the area combined with the cliffs and crashing surf on the nearby beaches, the enormous skies above the flat landscape, and of course a Cornish pasty or three made for a good break which is always welcome for me at this point in the academic year (despite the gale force winds and driving rain on a couple of days…).

I had other motivations too for visiting this part of the world: I was keen to visit Alex Katz’s ‘Give Me Tomorrow’ exhibition at Tate St Ives. I’m a big fan of Katz, and his work has been a big influence in the past, and this exhibition didn’t disappoint. It featured a great collection of his coastal scenes based on his experiences in Maine, where like a lot of New York artists keen to escape the stifling metropolis, he spends his summers. The show seemed perfectly suited to the location of the gallery across from the azure blue sea of St Ives (you can see why the region is such a draw for artists), and it displayed just the right amount of work. It seemed extremely well judged and precise, just like Katz’s paintings. I really loved seeing so much of the very  early work, which I hadn’t seen much of in the flesh before. I had previously felt the paintings completed in the 1950’s had seemed rough and still developing in their technique, but seeing them here I was really struck by how brilliant and exciting the handling of paint was. They had real authority and power. I also enjoyed some more recent extremely large canvasses depicting different aspects of water: from crashing waves to hazy, lose yourself in them reflections (see ‘Green Reflections 3’ below). I’ve been thinking about exploring ideas about the reflections under the motorways and in the local canals for some time, and this certainly inspired me to take this idea more seriously (although the waters of Tipton seem a far cry from Maine or St Ives, but Katz himself would say. ‘always look in your own backyard’…).

My new I-Pad also seemed to come into its own in Cornwall. The photos I can take on it are terrific with such a high level of definition, and I also started exploring the video on it and took a bit of footage around the coast. I’m also continuing to practice my painting and drawing skills on the ‘Brushes’ app, which is great fun and extremely addictive (see images below and at top made from the window of our draughty caravan).

I also found myself exploring the nearby Goonhilly Downs a couple of times. It’s a really interesting location and site of some enormous wind turbines, which I always find a bit eerie in the landscape but very compelling to watch, and also to be found were about seven huge satellite dishes in the nearby former abandoned radar base.

The way they faced expectantly heaven wards you half expected them to whir into action at any moment. It was rather unsettling the evening I went there alone to photograph and film them: the combination of the vast low expanses of surrounding moorland with these gigantic manmade structures, including an ancient standing stone too, and the sound of the  wind and fading evening light created an almost science fiction-like atmosphere that didn’t make me feel like hanging around too much. 

I headed back to the car with an ever quickening pace, and sped away from this unique example of the Cornish edgelands….

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