Home » Letters » Letters Volume 30 no 6 August / September 2016

Letters Volume 30 no 6 August / September 2016

Dear Tom,
All of us at the Block are very appreciative of the coverage you facilitated for our exhibition on Charlotte Moorman in your March / April Issue. Rachael Schwabe’s insightful article captured the ambitious scope of the show, and the compelling questions we wished to raise.
We were thrilled to hear of your work to give new life to
The New Art Examiner, and look forward to reading it and to hearing of your ongoing success. The Examiner has such an important role in the history of arts criticism within Chicago, and we are glad to have you as a colleague.
With Many thanks
Lindsay

Editor,
Days like this make you realise how great it is to be in West Cornwall. From a visual arts perspective it’s great to have an institution like Tate St. Ives here, much missed presently but back before we know it, with truly exciting and expanded potential ahead. The fantastic Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange who have offered so many exciting progressive exhibitions to experience free of charge.
Art centres like Kestle Barton on the Lizard. The wonderful Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens with world class exhibits, thriving proactive studio complexes like Porthmeor Studios, CAST and Krowji to name a few.
A wealth of artist-led activity, occupying spaces like The Fish Factory, Back Lane West and CMR Gallery. Independent curators like Jesse Leroy Smith and Sam Bassett putting on shows in disused spaces. Historic gems like Penlee House Gallery & Museum, and the ever popular Falmouth Art Gallery. Numerous commercial art galleries showing work at all levels offering space to artists at all career stages, venues like the newly opened Newlyn Filmhouse, showing independent cinema and supporting local film makers.
Falumni Falmouth leading the country for arts education and Newlyn School of Art and St. Ives School of Painting offering a wide range of courses for all abilities. That’s not to mention the wonderful Summer festivals of Golowan Festival Official Page and Lafrowda Festival, a wealth of musical richness and diversity, exciting theatre, good food and drink etc … etc… I could go on.
And of course we at Anima-Mundi will continue to work hard too as an important cog in a pretty exciting machine. I honestly believe that this is a great place to be looking forward positively and excitedly, not just backwards respectfully. Of course its hard fought in a place like Cornwall, so turn out show your support and appreciate the output, I think we are very lucky indeed.
Joseph Clarke, Anima-Mundi.

Editor,
If the NAE is to stand on any notion universally accepted, it must align itself with the nature of art as an integral act of human activity, apart from any agenda or intended commercial or political use, which is not to say under the intentional auspices, that valuable bad art may still appear. Rather art should be seen, if helpful in understanding the art itself, apart from it’s context – the actual work in itself.
The paradox arises when art cannot be de-moored from its context; the historical or political or commercial context inherent in the understanding of the piece itself. Art is often kidnapped for various intents, money most of all) hence forgeries, investments or ego on down. This is often how the work is uncritically valued, i.e. its price upmost. This is corruption at its lowest … forgeries, copies, boosted art from a critic or corrupt museums, artists, galleries, etc. Practically the last consideration a faulty critic faces is often the work itself … not its inference or implication but the core of the work within itself as free standing … impossible as that might be.
If a work transcends it’s context it often exposes it as it tears the context open, revealing the innermost of what is neglected or over looked, this is often missed in critical consideration. And that transcendence into the higher is a language the critic must be sensitive to. Think of the difference of cave painting, an art of intense reality so important to them to take the time to do the images might have meant they did not eat that day … and life of the modern makers of graffiti, that is disposable and says absolutely nothing {often} except that it’s rebellious and an egotistical temporary pathetic quick mark of impulse.
Al Jirikowic

Daniel,

First of all we need to be sure that we are talking about the same things. Newlyn Orion is a name that was superseded by Newlyn Art Gallery Limited back in the mid eighties. That is if it is the gallery that you are referring to. The Newlyn Society of Artists (NSA) and its members are a separate organisation, all be it with a long and very close relationship with the gallery. Indeed, between the inception of the gallery in the late 1800s until some point in the seventies the gallery was run by the society. The gallery was built for the uses of the artists of Newlyn who quickly formed themselves into the NSA and the way it worked meant that the two were effectively one organisation. The beginning of the schism came when the NSA could no longer run their lives as artist and run a gallery like the Newlyn in the modern age. This lead to the appointment of an independent director, John Hawkes, who had been running a large gallery in Penzance called the Orion Gallery – hence the name Newlyn Orion – an amalgamation of the two gallery names. He was very supportive of the NSA and committed the gallery to 3 major 4 to 6 week shows per year for the society in a programme that came to include major travelling shows from the Arts Council and elsewhere.
To cut a long and detailed story short, with the winning of Arts Council funding for the gallery, a gradual process of increasing distance between the NSA and the management of the gallery could be perceived. However, up until about 15 years ago the 3 exhibitions a year were fully agreed and maintained although efforts were made to modernise the content , focus and curation of the shows. This was not a problem in my view as, having been a member since the mid eighties and I often found the NSA shows to be repetitive and without much real ambition.
Emily Ash, director from about 1988(?), to her credit set about instilling some zip into the shows and innovated a new working relationship with the NSA which really did have the potential to develop into an ongoing and lively set up. From discussions with ex NSA committee members of around about 2000 (after Emily Ash had left) onwards however, it is clear that the management wanted to shift the relationship into something more distant. Discussions continued but without any clear direction as far as I can make out.
It all came to a head when the Newlyn Art Gallery was closed for some time for refurbishment and the Exchange building in Penzance, acquired by the gallery, was being converted for use as gallery and studio space. This was round about 2007. I was living in Japan at the time so my connection with the details of what then happened is only second hand. But once the gallery was opened again, the 3 shows per year had been scrapped and the NSA was left to bid for exhibition space and time under the same conditions as anyone else.
For a while this went OK but the number and type of exhibition had changed irrevocably. Shows had to be themed and tightly curated (not a bad thing maybe), but absolutely no acknowledgment of the historical connection between the NSA and the gallery was from that time on ever acknowledged. (Contemporary management mantra – there is no such thing as history).
Indeed the current gallery management will not even acknowledge that such a relationship ever really existed – about 4 years ago they held a small exhibition of the history of the gallery at Newlyn and did not once mention the role of the NSA in the gallery for over 70 years. Getting any ideas for shows accepted became increasingly difficult. The society was effectively excluded from the gallery though the director will always say that no one is excluded.
Returning from Japan 5 years ago I was elected on to the committee of the NSA and immediately became chair. At that time the society was tearing itself apart over this issue and there was much vitriol in the air. We set about trying pull the society back together and to reestablish a good working relationship with the gallery so as to find a way towards something that might bear a connection to what the NSA had there in the past. We were effectively and consistently brick walled, and have been now for over 4 years.
We have tried on many occasions to create opportunities for the society in terms of well thought out exhibition ideas that would be tightly curated etc, but to no avail. Most recently we had two new members of the committee (without baggage) engage in discussions with the gallery. Ultimately their frustration over being given the run around again lead them to conclude we are wasting our time and effort. Without ever committing themselves to an emphatic “NO” the gallery management have effectively closed the door on the NSA. Using the tactic of endless procrastination they have successfully locked us out. There are many of us who suspect the Arts Council hand in this in the we have often been confronted with the view that it is untenable to expect a publicly funded gallery to give any kind of special priority to a private organisation like the NSA.
The NSA is now engaged in close discussions with Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens near Penzance where a new gallery space of similar scale to the Newlyn Art Galley, is about to be built. We are confident that this will provide the opportunity for the society to rise from the ashes. It may be a leaner, more dynamic group different in many respects from the old NSA ,but it will be all the better for that I think.

Phil Booth

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