Tate St Ives
22 January – 2 May 2005

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: Movement and Light: Imag(in)ing Time

An important exhibition celebrating key moments in the life and work of the foremost British abstract painter Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004) revealing the development of her ideas and visual language, and bringing together many of her well-known Glacier paintings and drawings. During her 64-year career as one of the young ‘moderns’ working in St Ives in the 1940s, she began exploring the possibilities of painting beyond representation, her images deriving from acute observations of natural forms and sense of place. The exhibition includes early works made in St Ives – some exhibited for the first time since the late 1940s and new works made prior to her death in January 2004.

This exhibition shows the evolution of a number of key concepts which preoccupied Barns-Graham for more than three decades of her painting career, revealing a psychological response to her experience of the landscape with the direct application of paint, muted palette and flattening of forms. Born in Fife, Scotland, in 1912, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham travelled and studied in Europe during the late 1930s before arriving in St Ives in 1940. Inspired by international abstract trends and her subsequent association with Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and the post-war painters and makers of the Penwith Society, she embarked on a career spanning six decades. The exhibition reveals the development of the artist’s distinctive painting and drawings in the St Ives context.

Callum Innes: Resonance

This is the first exhibition of Callum Innes’ paintings in the South West, and presents a dynamic range of works from his distinctive Exposed Painting series which were commissioned for Tate St Ives. Born in 1962 in Edinburgh, Callum Innes studied at Edinburgh College of Art and currently teaches in the School of Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art.

Innes belongs to a generation of British artists who continue to explore the possibilities of paint on canvas, using the language of the monochrome, an established format of abstract painting since the 1960s. His paintings are created through a process of addition and subtraction: sometimes he eliminates areas of paint from the surface grid to leave a faint trace, a technique which injects a dynamic lyricism into an otherwise architecturally ‘still’ painting.

Denis Mitchell: Ascending Forms

From the late 1940s, Sculptor Denis Mitchell (1912–1993) was central to the group of St Ives Modernists artists. Renowned for his dynamic polished bronzes, Mitchell evolved a visual language that was inspired by his intimate knowledge of working in and on the landscape. In 1930 Mitchell moved from Swansea to the Cornish artistic colony to start market gardening and to paint. But his experiences of tin mining during the war and his tenure as chief assistant to Barbara Hepworth between1949-59 soon inspired him to carve. Working initially with wood, slate and stone, Mitchell eventually found his own forms in sand-cast bronze. His implicit understanding of the balance of line and form created by the interplay of light and surface imbues Mitchell’s tall abstract sculptures with a unique vitality. The exhibition at Tate St Ives placed in complement with the work of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham draws together ten of Mitchell’s celebrated bronzes from the 1960s and 70s and several carvings in wood, slate and stone from the 1970s and 80s.

Bernard Leach Come to the Edge The Pots and Tile Panels of Bernard Leach

Now widely acknowledged as part of the modernist movement in the early decades of the twentieth century, Bernard Leach’s ceramics are continually being reassessed as the movement itself is subject to increasing scrutiny. This exhibition of some thirty pots and tiles, all made by Leach or under his close supervision and bearing his seal, focuses on major pieces from a career covering nearly seventy years of working with clay. It highlights the simplicity and strength of his understanding of form and his awareness of inner and outer space, as well as his highly accomplished decoration. This ranges from powerfully conceived and executed slip-decorated earthenware chargers to painted decoration on his iconic Leaping Salmon vase, and his use of fluting to highlight form and surface. In successfully integrating form and decoration on pots that are quiet and contemplative, Leach was part of a pioneering movement for an alternative art form. Born in the East and educated in the West, Leach was equally at home in either culture. He studied pottery in Japan with a traditional potter, Kenzan, from the point of view of a Western-trained artist, and brought to his ceramics a sculptural awareness of a three-dimensional form, acquiring in the process a profound understanding of the aesthetics associated with China, Korea and Japan. In bringing together a carefully chosen group of his ceramics, Come to the Edge will trace Leach’s changing concerns and shed fresh light on the work that confirms him as a major twentieth-century artist.

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