Apart from being a stunningly beautiful part of the world with great beaches, good pubs and restaurants et cetera, St Ives is famous for art. It’s a phenomenon the St Ives Society of Artists traces back to 1811 and Turner, but which really took off in 1928. It was then that proper theory and unique practice began and a significant body of artists arrived. While they had more than one schism St Ives can be said to lose its artistic significance with the death of Barbara Hepworth in 1975.
That’s not to say you won’t find lots of artists in St Ives, but as the St Ives Society of Artists shows, there’s nothing of interest being created at the moment. (Tate St Ives is, of course, another story to be covered later.) The town is full of people following a very simple formula to produce idealised landscapes and seascapes. I’ve produced an abstract image in the style here. It’s called ‘St Ives: Sunny’. To qualify as a St Ives artist, simply paint the top third of your canvass sky-blue, the bottom third sea-blue and the middle sand. My colours have been sampled from an actual photograph of St Ives and so are most authentic. As you can image I was forced to write ‘mediocre’ in the exhibition visitors’ book.
With time to spare, we turned our attention to the most bizarre Salthouse Gallery, which is strategically located next door to the Society. The art was no better, but they had a CD of the artist’s poetry playing with the man himself wondering about and obviously keen that we should recognise him from the photo on said CD. ‘The ornamental truncheon hung from grandma’s bed,’ he intoned. There was some more dodgy phallic symbolism and each verse ended, ‘And I’m alone now.’ Avoid.
Uploaded: 22 July 2005