On Tuesday night I went to one of the weekly ‘private Views’ that are held at Gallery Tresco. As the name suggests this is ‘the’ gallery on Tresco and shows work by many of Cornwall’s top artists.
The current show is an eclectic mix of a large number of artists who all use the islands as their inspiration. Unfortunately the buying audience here is a little (and I am being very generous here) on the conservative side and both the gallery and the showing artists have to engage with this commercial reality, thus a lot of the work looks a little chocolate boxy. There is also an inherent problem when painting the landscape, especially one as beautiful and light filled as this one, which is how to make it look and feel contemporary. I know that every time I come here I take photos but I also bring my watercolours because the landscape is so uniquely stunning that I feel compelled to try and capture it. The inevitable landscape painting quandary is which route to take; the abstract route (I always feel this is a cop out), the simplification method (used to great effect by the late John Miller but which now looks like a Greek holiday poster), accentuated colours (too fauvist) or in the end not worrying and just making ‘nicey, nicey’ watercolours (which is what I and a lot of other artists end up doing).
Back to the gallery and my top three picks. Mike Hindle’s colour rich, semi-abstract watercolours,
Kathy Todd’s atmospheric, carefully stippled strips of sand dunes and my number one choice Harriet Barber’s painterly oil on board seascapes. Barber’s paintings are refreshingly raw, colour piled on in an effort to summon up the emotion of the place rather than worrying to much about accuracies They have an endearing hint of the naïve about them which is only spoiled by some over elaborate framing, unfortunately a common gallery problem (the most popular choice is lime washed wood which I’m afraid looks very Ikea and old hat). It would look so refreshing if all the work on show was pinned to the walls with drawing pins, but this is probably just my art school sensibility and the buying public obviously likes to take a nicely framed souvenir home with them.
Gallery Tresco will I am sure go from strength to strength and who knows maybe they will find a contemporary gem along the way. I’m looking forward to the day when Tresco Gallery Projects opens and artists attempt to place the Island beauty within some kind of larger socio-political context. It would also be fantastic to see media other than paint in engagement with this beautiful last of England landscape.