Busman’s Holiday

Ah, I love Cornwall!  I love the coasts and villages; I love the people; I love the rugged beauty of the moors and the intimacy of the narrow lanes, which are currently looking particular spectacular fringed as they are with drifts of cow parsley, foxgloves and red campion.

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The hedgerows and road verges are so colourful at the moment.

 

It has been such a treat to travel around with no time pressure visiting artists in their lairs and chatting to them about life, art and Cornwall. Not being able to get into my own studio and knowing that this is a time for just lapping up the atmosphere has been so relaxing.  Who could ask for more?

I began close to home on the Roseland where, much to my surprise, I discovered only one artist was taking part in Cornwall Open Studios. Carol O’Toole and I happily whiled away the time in her  studio in Tregony.  What a lovely lady!  She made me feel so good about my decision to move to Cornwall.  I showed her my work, which happened to be in the car, and she showed me hers.

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Carol O’Toole: a fabulous mix of print and paint.
I love the fact that she, like me, does not stick to the rules.  In her case this results in delicious combinations of print and paint which work brilliantly together.

Later in the week I prowled further afield, crossing the ferry and trekking into the wilds of Feock and Mylor Bridge to gaze with admiration at Lucy Spink’s jewellery – Just as well she does not have any kind of facility for taking credit cards or I might have parted with a fair bit of money – and the print makers Jenny and Sarah Seddon.  Despite having committed a dreadful error here and failed to read the booklet properly, the Seddons were not officially open on the day I went, the welcome I received was as warm as any and the work was enthralling.  I would not have minded staying with the Seddons all day!

Of course I had to drop in on Paula Downing whose work I had seen at Truro Museum and who I really wanted to meet.  She could not have been more friendly and, despite the fact that she was actually trying to run a workshop at the time, was happy to chat about the ceramics scene in Cornwall and sounded genuinely interested to meet a fellow manipulator of clay.  Paula’s light and airy studio felt like a tree house.  You look out of the large windows across the valley of the River Fal and see nothing but a canopy of deciduous woodland.  How she gets any work done is a mystery to me – I would spend all day gazing at the wildlife!

My overall impression of the Cornwall Open Studios is that, whereas in Wimbledon we get around 4000 visitors in 4 days, life is hectic and the opportunities come to us, the artists in Cornwall get nothing like those numbers in 10 days.  Here the visitors have to make quite an effort to seek out the studios (I got lost more than once) and the artists have to make a massive effort too.  Tea, cake and hospitality were on hand wherever I went and

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Some of the settings were simply glorious.

some of the settings were simply glorious.  Most importantly, those who had grouped together with more than one artist in a building seemed to have a real advantage and were clearly receiving a disproportionately higher number of visitors. 

 

Mind Who You Tread On . . .

imagesLA5P4DUFEarlier this week I visited Edge, a ceramics and photography exhibition in Truro Museum by Paula Downing and her husband Antony Hosking.  There was lots to like.  The colours that Downing uses are very close to my heart.  There is something extremely Cornish and rugged about her work.  Where I prefer the sense of fragility and delicateness of porcelain, she works in quite thick slabs of stoneware and earthenware clays and yet I feel an affinity to her work; I love her edges and I am intrigued by her range of slips and mark making.  The exhibition blurb emphasises how much her pieces are influenced by her ability to look properly and this certainly comes across.  Each work begins with copious drawings and with in depth studies of her husband’s photographic images, which have a soft, ethereal feel to them, very different to Downing’s interpretations but related to them by their sense of place.  All in all, there is plenty to consider in the exhibition and, if you find yourself within hailing distance of Truro, you should definitely pop along and take a look.

But one thing pained me greatly:  As is often the case, there is a comments book for people to voice their opinions and to leave little messages for the artists.  Now I wonder about these books.  Who are they meant for?  Is it intended as a bit of an ego trip for the artist?  Is it so that the visiting public can be seen to have taken note?  Why DO people write in these books?

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Bedruthan by Antony Hosking
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I love Downing’s edges and also her colours.

There were many charming comments about the work on view; quite a few of them by children.  Well, it is half term and it has rained a lot in Cornwall so children have been frequenting the museum.  But what shook me was one rather acrimonious comment about Hosking’s images.  The remark implied that the images were poorly composed and out of focus. Well quite apart from the fact that I don’t agree about the compositions and the lack of focus is, I am certain, intended, I feel that this kind of comment is out of order!  To make matters worse the author had not left their name; a flippant remark filled the signature box instead.  I suppose that it is just possible that this was written as a joke by somebody who knows the artist well and with their knowledge.  If so, it is in pretty poor taste to set it down in a public place.  I do not believe that these books are the appropriate forum for such jokes, if joke it is.  Surely, what ever else these books are for, they are not for that kind of negativity.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines criticism as the analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work, the word ‘critic’ coming from Greek κριτικός, meaning ‘able to discern’. This being the case, a critic needs to be able to make some kind of scholarly judgement about the work, not simply pour vitriol all over it, and do they not also need to own their remarks? 

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I hope I can take what is offered but I also hope that it is offered constructively!
I hope that if ,or when, I am in the position to to have such a book available for comments at my exhibitions, the people who chose to leave remarks do so in the spirit of being helpful and that I will be able to receive them with a view to refining my work, not as something which only serves to get in the way of how I feel one way or the other!