Tate St Ives will reopen to the public with a major rehang of its collection displays. This will be its first rehang since 2017, when the museum was completely refurbished and extended. The new displays, Modern Conversations, will spotlight five key artists associated with the modern art networks of St Ives and West Cornwall: Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), Marlow Moss (1889-1958), Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Partou Zia (1958-2008) and Bob Law (1934-2004). Shown in dialogue with works by other 20th and 21st century artists from Cornwall and around the globe, the displays will unravel the stories and legacies of modern art in St Ives and beyond. Modern Conversations will exhibit painting, sculpture, ceramics, film, and photography side by side, spanning decades and continents.
The first gallery, Making Stories, will spotlight the much-loved artist Alfred Wallis. Based in St Ives for many years, Wallis was self-taught and began painting in his late 60s. He used fragments of materials and objects gathered from daily life, developing his expressive style of painting to relive his memories working on the coast and at sea. His work inspired a subsequent generation of British artists including Winifred and Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood. Several works by Wallis from Tate’s collection will be shown alongside other British painters including Joan Eardley and Peter Lanyon, as well as contemporary artists such as Lubaina Himid and Simryn Gill, whose fusion of materials and memory is central to their storytelling.
Led by the work of Marlow Moss, the second gallery, Modern Landscapes, will look at the systems which artists use to explore the world around them. Moss moved from Britain to Paris in 1927 and pioneered a new approach to abstract painting by applying mathematic principles, partly inspired by geometries of the natural world. Working in rural Cornwall from 1941, the artist’s abstract work and deliberately masculine appearance challenged artistic and social conventions and continue to provoke discussions about art practice and gender today. This gallery will feature paintings and reliefs by Moss’s close friends Piet Mondrian and Paule Vézelay, as well as geometrical works by artists Stella Benjamin, David Nash, Naum Gabo and Rasheed Araeen.
The third gallery, Modern Bodies, will begin with Barbara Hepworth’s radical approaches to the human form. One of Britain’s most important 20th century sculptors, Hepworth moved to St Ives in 1939 and continued to live and work there for the rest of her life. One of the few female voices to receive international recognition in a male-dominated art scene of the time, she invoked the internal and external experience of being a modern woman through sculptural space and form. Hepworth’s explorations of the body will be shown alongside sculptures by Chen Zhen, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Ronald Moody, as well as photographs and film by artists including Ana Mendieta, Zanele Muholi and Rebecca Horn who discuss issues of identity and the politics of the body.
Partou Zia’s imagined worlds of light and colour inspire the fourth room, Vision and Visionary. The daughter of a communist activist, Zia arrived in London from Tehran in 1970 as a political refugee. In 1993 she moved to Cornwall and in 2003 was an associate of the Tate St Ives Artist Residency Programme at Porthmeor Studios. Her intensely colourful, dreamlike paintings often seek to reconcile the myths and memories of her lost childhood in Iran, alongside experiences of her creative life in Cornwall. Zia’s works will be shown alongside the surreal drawings of Ithell Colquhoun, and paintings by colourist Winifred Nicholson, and abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell.
The final room, Abstract Spaces, explores the desire for new ways of living after the Second World War, and how artists reimagined the role of art in society. The gallery begins with the work of Bob Law, one of the founders of British Minimalism, whose career began in the 1950s when he moved to St Ives. Inspired by Zen philosophy and the lines and forms of the Cornish landscape, Law’s abstract paintings create a space for personal reflection and regeneration. This room will show how different artists around the world have approached abstraction in the post-war years including Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt) and Saloua Raouda Choucair.
Anne Barlow, Director of Tate St Ives said: “I'm delighted that Tate St Ives will reopen with all-new collection displays. Modern Conversations will explore 100 years of art, celebrating how West Cornwall has welcomed and inspired artists and revealing new connections to artists from around the world. We hope that visitors will discover many great artworks for the first time as well as seeing some of their favourites in a new light.”
Modern Conversations is the second in a series of Tate Collection displays which unravel and extend the stories and legacies of modern art in West Cornwall. Led by Sara Matson, this edition is curated with Sally Noall, assisted by Helen Bent, Giles Jackson and Rachel Smith.