Posts Tagged ‘St Ives’

Our latest sojourn west during the extended Christmas break reminded me of other recent visits to Cornwall, in summer, when the days are long and the light is sharp. Although Cornwall is beautiful at any time of year, early summer’s my favourite – before the hoards of holiday makers descend, blocking the roads with their caravans and filling the cafés up with their blotchy sun-burned skin.

St Ives

St Ives

Go west as far as St Ives – the quintessence of a West Country seaside resort; a perfect picture postcard of a place.

Stroll along typically narrow, Cornish cobbled streets, hear the constant cry of gulls as they wheel overhead; breathe in the salt air, rub shoulders with weather-beaten locals and wander around the harbour to marvel at the latest bounty coming in from the sea on little fishing boats or just spend time lazing on miles of glorious sandy beaches. Do all the things you would do at the seaside.

However, there’s another side to St Ives. The town is well known for being a place that entices artists to stay and enjoy the clarity of light for which it is famous. There’s the Tate Art Gallery right on Porthmeor Beach, housing ever changing exhibitions. The Leach Pottery, a museum dedicated to the work of Bernard Leach, (founding father of the renowned Cornish potters), is well worth a visit and can be found at Higher Stennack, a steep walk to the top of the town.

But to find the most magical of places you must get past the plethora of Olde tea Shoppes selling cream teas; get past the fudge shops, the shops selling surfing equipment, the bead shops, the shops selling crystals and polished fossils, the upmarket casual fashion shops, the bucket, spade and sun cream shops and wind your way around the backstreets until you find yourself in front of a curved, high stone wall and an unprepossessing door. It’s not easy to find, even with the help of the brown tourist signs which are all a bit skew-whiff – but perseverance will be rewarded, especially if, like me, you are a fan of 20th century sculpture.

For this is the site of Trewyn Studio – the home of the English sculptor, Barbara Hepworth – the place where she created some of her most seminal works and ultimately, the place where she died tragically in a fire in 1975. Originally from Yorkshire, Hepworth was one of several artists who settled in St Ives  during the 1940’s. She bought Trewyn in 1949 and remained there all her life. According to her final wishes the place is now a museum showcasing her works and is managed by Tate St Ives.

The museum houses a useful timeline documenting her life and work and then upstairs in a light and airy room, are models, plaster casts and miniatures of some of her larger pieces. Step through another door at the top of the stairs and you are outside in her wonderful walled garden.

Step out into the garden

Step out into the garden

There are many of her larger works here in bronze, stone and wood – resplendent amongst the foliage – one form complementing the other.

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To one side of the garden is her studio, left almost untouched – as if she was but a breath away. Her tools are out on the bench;

The studio - as it must always have been

The studio – as it must always have been

her coats hang on hooks;

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paint pots, ancient tins of glue and varnish line the shelves.

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Trewyn is an inspiring place and one I have returned to – always in sunshine. I’d like to see it in wet weather too as raindrops would provide another dimension to her sculptures – some of them, especially the bronzes, invite the addition of water.

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Hepworth’s ‘Dual Form’ outside the Guildhall in St Ives

Years ago, when I worked just off London’s g-jackson-winged-figure-sculpture-john-lewis-store-oxford-street-london-by-barbara-hepworth[1] Oxford Street,  I used to walk past a Hepworth sculpture every day. Mounted on the wall on the corner of the John Lewis department store, her piece entitled ‘Winged Figure’ stands poised, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. The John Lewis store had to be rebuilt after the war on its current site where, according to baffled business analysts in our current economic climate, business is booming.

I like to think that the commissioning in 1961,  by the John Lewis Partnership, of Hepworth’s prophetic sculpture has had something to do with it.

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