Invited through the Tate St Ives Artists’ Programme, Glasgow based artist France-Lise McGurn has painted the stairwell at Tate St Ives. McGurn’s paintings and drawings grow out of her personal archive of collected imagery found in film, art, advertising and television. Often working directly onto walls and floors, McGurn is also interested in the history of mural painting, from the domestic murals of Bloomsbury and her own mother, artist Rita McGurn, to the swinging ‘Christy Girls’ of American artist Howard Chandler Christy.
McGurn used her residency at Tate St Ives to think about the function of gossip, anecdotes, parties and the stories that circulate in an artists’ colony. As she says about the stairwell: ‘it is as though there could have been a party here’. However, while all of her characters cavort and intermingle, each fragment of her painting references a different story or myth, from various histories and tales.
McGurn also associates the form of the stairwell to that of an actual well, suggesting bodies of water, reflective surfaces, and the fluidity and leakage of gossip. The colours in her palette quote both rust and moss, substances that are cultivated by waterlogged environments and which leave a stain or mark on a surface. Created to be read vertically, rather than horizontally, McGurn’s mural uses both spontaneous lines and repeated gestures to create loose associations about place, history and storytelling, almost as though we are peeling back the layers of a past.