Tate St Ives
7 February – 9 May 2004

Karl Weschke - Beneath a Black Sky

Celebrating a career that spans over fifty years, this new exhibition, curated by Ben Tufnell, offers an opportunity to see a range of paintings and drawings from the 1950s to the present day. Weschke’s work is strongly linked to his immediate environment, where the landscape often becomes a setting for mythic events which dramatise the human condition as a solitary, isolated struggle for survival.

Weschke (b.1925, Germany) came to England in 1945 as a POW. On release he decided to pursue a career as an artist, coming to live in Cornwall in 1955 where he established friendships with artists including Bryan Wynter, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon and the poet WS Graham. Paintings exhibited from this period include the enigmatic Portrait of Lore No.2 1954 and Meeting Point of Sky and Land 1961.

Landscape has remained one of Weschke’s principal themes and from the 1960s onwards he focused on the elemental forces that activate it, as seen in works such as Sturmflöten 1965-6 and Gale 1974.

Weschke’s work is often rooted in personal experience, then translated into images of universal significance. Body on the Beach 1977 and Caliban 1978 were both inspired by a diving accident. Similarly Feeding Dog 1977 and Fighting Dogs 1978 are a result of Weschke’s observation of his own Borzoi hound, with the struggling animals being portrayed true to their nature.

His later works, such as The Fire-Eater with Spectators 1984-6, continued to present human beings as alienated, relating to philosophical post-war debates such as existentialism. The image depicts a street performer Weschke observed in Frankfurt. The pose of the central figure evokes a crucifixion, while a crowd of spectators seem to watch in fear.

Three trips made to Egypt in the 1990s had a profound effect on his use of colour, which took on a glow previously unseen in his paintings. In The Nile near Kom Ombo 1994, temple structures, columns, deserts and palm trees dominate, as human presence is reduced to a minimum.

To complement Weschke’s exhibition, a group of works from the Tate Collection by artists he has a particular interest in will be shown, including JMW Turner, John Chrome, Wassily Kandinsky, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Beckmann and Marino Marini.

Ged Quinn - Utopia, Dystopia

Ged Quinn is the second recipient of the Tate St Ives Artists’ Residency Programme based at the historic Porthmeor Studio, previously occupied by Borlase Smart, Ben Nicholson and Patrick Heron. This initiative provides artists with a residency fee and studio space to support the development of their professional practice. Evolving from a spectrum of sources in art history, photographs, memory, newspaper cuttings and books, Quinn’s canvases introduce new and universal topics. The latest series samples styles of artists such as Richard Wilson, Claude Lorrain and Caspar David Friedrich. The logical reading of these ‘Master’ works is disrupted by Quinn’s infusion of abstract references to Western cultural history.

Grayson Perry

Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry shows a selection of his pots at Tate St Ives, as well as a ‘coming out ‘ frock designed by the artist. Perry’s work combines the traditions of fine and decorative arts including drawing, embroidery and ceramics, to explore compelling personal and social themes. His classical pots are covered with imagery which, although colourful and decorative, are in fact often autobiographical images of himself and his transvestite alter ego Claire, and include references to political events and an investigation of cultural stereotypes.

Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada and Circle

Leach travelled to St Ives from Japan with fellow potter Hamada in 1920 to set up the Leach Pottery, which became one of the most celebrated potteries in Britain. This display highlights a selection of works by key figures in the story of the Leach Pottery. The ceramics have been selected from the collections of George and Cornelia Wingfield-Digby and Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, and curated by Emmanuel Cooper.

Pier Arts Centre Collection

Whilst the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney renovates its buildings, Tate St Ives is showing their collection containing particularly fine examples of work by St Ives artists. It was formed by Margaret Gardiner, a close friend and supporter of many of these artists. Paintings and sculpture by Alfred Wallis, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Roger Hilton, Margaret Mellis, John Wells, Alan Davie, William Gear and William Scott are on show.