Terry Frost's Porthmeor Studio

A visit to the studio of one of the most important painters of the St Ives School

In this film, Frost’s grandson Luke Frost, himself a painter, shows us around Frost’s Porthmeor studio, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and offers a personal insight into his grandfather’s life and work.

Terry Frost's artistic career began in a Prisoner of War camp, where he met and was taught by artist Adrian Heath. It was the start of a journey that would see him become one of the most important British painters of his generation. Frost later worked as assistant to Barbara Hepworth in St Ives, Cornwall, where he spent much of his life.

I’m Luke Frost – Terry Frost’s grandson. I am an artist. My father, Anthony Frost, is an artist as well. My uncle’s an actor – Steven Frost – and my other uncle, he’s a performance artist.

At the Porthmeor Studios, where we are now – Ben Nicolson gave him the studio in 1950, I think – Ben worked next door in studio number five, and that’s where I worked as well when I was artist in residence in 2008–2009 for the Tate St Ives. My grandfather came here just after the war, because Adrian Heath said there was an artists’ community down here – you must go down. And he was right, because there were these artists down here, and they were forming a very important community.

In the prisoner of war camp my grandfather started painting. He used the sardine oil to mix with pigments, and he did portraits of other prisoners of war. With Adrian Heath, who was there, and was a known artist in London at the time before the war, so he obviously saw something in my grandfather, and they became great friends. And as soon as he got back he decided that’s what he wanted to be. At that time he would go for long walks along the quay in St Ives with my uncle...little uncle, who was crying a lot, and just absorbing the emotions of what was going on around him at the time – all the ropes and the boats and the movement, the tidal movements of the sea.

I had a solo show here in Gallery Five. A few years before that, my grandfather had his big solo show in the whole of the Tate Gallery. My work was on the same wall as his major work. It was a great feeling... Right behind me is my grandfather’s work, Black and White Movement, painted in 1952 in Porthmeor Studios, and he painted in black and white because that was the only paint he could afford. But it’s also a walk along the quay, as it’s obvious that it’s from that series. Personal notes I know of it; it was a draught excluder in the studio. It was on the floor to try and keep all the elements out, so it was walked over hundreds of times. It was used in a studio in Newnham I’m pretty sure, as a cutting board. Stuff was cut on top of it. So this has been through quite a life.

We’ve used this studio now for maybe a couple of years. It was a blank space, and we built this storeroom, and it’s housing all the works that the family own. Behind here we’ve got some of his larger works. Some of them probably date back to the sixties, maybe the fifties, and this is the first time that these have been filmed by anyone. I’ve archived all my family archive so we know exactly what’s going on, and we get them all photographed – on show – back in. It’s like a constant working, revolving machine.

This is where we store all the smaller framed works. There are sections of prints done here with Hugh Stoneman. A small work on paper, and small works on canvas as well, like an old...that’s from 2001 – untitled, that one, but that’s probably the way...so yeah.

Being around my grandfather has influenced me a lot. Obviously my work is colour. I’ve just learnt a lot from watching him and the way he uses colour, and always having his paintings around, you know. So that has been a fantastic education, shall we say, yeah. It couldn’t get any better, I don’t think.

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