This Place: St Just in Penwith


Over the last 20 years or so my work has evolved into ‘projects’ – each a body of work that explores and is inspired by a particular route [a river, a prehistoric track way], a workplace [quarry, mine, fishermen, farmer], a group of fauna or flora [the crows, the trees] or as in this exhibition, a particular place.


A dedication to and celebration of the environment is intrinsic to both my politics and my art and a holistic involvement with this subject provides the springboard for everything I make. My practice involves both plein air and studio work and embraces an extensive range of materials and techniques.


St Just in Penwith has been my home since the 1980’s. It is where we raised a family within the strong local community, but crucially St Just has become a focal point, an inspiration to my work. The town has become totally enmeshed in my sense of being and place; for many people Priest Cove, Cape Cornwall and Kenidjack are now synonymous with my paintings.


This exhibition concentrates on this subject with a series of paintings and sculptures, printmaking and ceramics documenting and investigating this most Cornish of towns and its parish throughout the year. As the seasons change, traditional events take place in the streets and the fields, the wildlife is recorded, the landscape is explored (both the topography and it’s inhabitants), by fishing boat, on foot, along the lanes and streets; from the hilltop and the cliff top, inside the factories and the mines.


This project is about the place where I live - in the far West of Cornwall. This is the most Westerly town in Britain and the furthest town from London outside of Scotland. It is a wild place, a place on the margins; geographically isolated and battered by the elements. It is a post-industrial town in a post-industrial landscape, with a fading fishing industry, a struggling farming community and an expanding population. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful place, a landscape of granite in the transitional space between the Atlantic cliffs and the Cornish moors.


This place stands as a microcosm for the world at large (Local = Global). As any place it is defined by the complex interactions between the human inhabitants, the flora and fauna, the geology, the elements, the culture and history and the resulting evolution of a community (the psychogeography). With ‘This Place’, I chose to engage with a number of pertinent local issues to illustrate these interactions, for instance, sustainability – I accompanied Cape Cornwall fishermen on their boats to produce a series of spontaneous mixed media works covering their small-scale fishing practices, the work was relevant to Greenpeace’s ‘Defend Oceans’ campaigns, and was used by them to launch their latest campaign, then biodiversity awareness – through a series of works, and with support from Cornwall Wildlife Trust, I celebrated local indigenous species, including the Cornish Moneywort – an extremely rare plant found only in this region. And finally post-industrialism – St Just is a town founded on tin. My exploration of this subject follows a historical narrative, from a Roman artefact found in the 1830s, to my own representation, produced from tin I extracted from the parish today with permission from the Duchy of Cornwall and Natural England (perhaps the first to be extracted since the 1950s). This has been documented by the BBC in a TV documentary.


Like all of my artistic practice I approached these issues from an environmental perspective - I feel that successful environmentalism stems from a need to source from, and be faithful to the local community and the surrounding biodiversity. ‘This Place’ is my personal engagement with St Just (both on location and later in the studio) and takes the form of painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, jewellery and filmmaking.


Ian Collins who wrote the catalogue essay, succinctly concluded, “This is a show about very particular meeting places and points of separation, of clamour and silence. It's about the past impacting on the present. And for all its intense singularity this homage to locality, and of social and emotional and spiritual grounding, is about who and where we are or yearn to be. It will resonate amid the signal challenges of the 21st century where we are struggling to retain or rediscover core human values as well as striving to preserve the planet.”

 

  • Two gorses and three heathers. Up on the Downs. August 2011. Two gorses and three heathers. Up on the Downs. August 2011.
  • Wellington Hotel. Wet evening up St just. November 2011. Wellington Hotel. Wet evening up St just. November 2011.
  • Tregeseal, Bosvargus, St Just. Rooks squabble in the early Spring sunshine. March 2012. Tregeseal, Bosvargus, St Just. Rooks squabble in the early Spring sunshine. March 2012.
  • Winter evening, St Just. 2012. Winter evening, St Just. 2012.
  • Caroline, April showers. 2012. Caroline, April showers. 2012.
  • St Just lights and moon, bonfire night. November 2011. St Just lights and moon, bonfire night. November 2011.
  • Chapel Street, fog and Jackdaws. October 2011. Chapel Street, fog and Jackdaws. October 2011.
  • Grown in Kelynack, sold on Nancherrow. 2012. Grown in Kelynack, sold on Nancherrow. 2012.
  • Bea and her mates go for a swim in the early Spring. 2012. Bea and her mates go for a swim in the early Spring. 2012.
  • Terraces and mine shafts. 2012. bronze, unique. Terraces and mine shafts. 2012. bronze, unique.