Sven Berlin at Belgrave, St Ives

Sven Berlin Polymath
Begrave Gallery 7-30 October 2017

This show is mainly of his later works with one or two earlier pieces. They run through sculpture, paintings, drawings which, apart from the last, all show the same weakness. Sven Berlin was eventually run out of St Ives in his gypsy caravan, seeking a life in the New Forest. He did not fit into the ideology that defined the avant guard. One of his sins was to publish a book on Alfred Wallis, also his publishing of Monarch, which poked fun at the arty celebrities that made up the community in St Ives.

He retained a commitment and practice to traditional pictorial art which included a reference to Augustus John. In a way, he was anti-intellectual. A situation well maintained in St Ives today. Maybe his attempt at bravura was his weakness. In every style and form it hampered him. This does not stop Sven Berlin from becoming a folk hero. His work is diverse.

The colours in Untitled, flowers in a glass bowl, seem to want to be French. Jump for Joy (an acrylic on paper) could be a well-mannered ghost story. He handles his works, though they often fail to arrive at a conclusion, though they have verve. The drawings in this show are his best work. The lines are uninterrupted by painting and his instincts for how paper works with charcoal are surer handed than in his other works.

Sven is as notable for his independent life as for his art, and the stories still abound. But for me he fails to make the grade, not because he lacked the ability, but because he thought he had finished before he actually had, and thereafter stopped trying.

Daniel Nanavati

Daniel Nanavati is our European Editor

Volume 32 no 3 Jan/Feb 2018 p 34

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Sean Levy
31/03/2018 1:52 pm

This was back in October 2017; where are the paintings from this exhibit now? Does anyone know?

Christy Williams
31/03/2018 3:37 pm
Reply to  Sean Levy

Why don’t you just ask the Belgrave Gallery directly instead of making it a public affair here? Their email, easily found in google, is:
I’m sure they would know where Sven Berlin’s paintings are now.

Peter Gannett
06/03/2018 8:15 am

Where is the next exhibition of Sven Berlin?

Sarah Spaniels
04/03/2018 8:54 am

Anyone know where I can find of Sven Berlin’s satire on St Ives, The Dark Monarch? Amazon has only used copies at £47.50, which is out of my price range.

26/02/2018 6:49 pm

Not only Codswallop. Performance art in general which is now an accepted element in contemporary art.

27/02/2018 8:16 am
Reply to  derek guthrie

Who do you consider to be the most interesting Performance artists and why?

13/02/2018 5:00 pm

The indifference of The Penwith Society of Art and the Newlyn Society of Artists shows in their failure to respond to Ken Turners proposal to accept Performance Art.

25/02/2018 2:23 am
Reply to  Derek Guthrie

It is unclear what you are referring to, but I believe it is the performance called Codswallop that I found in youtube:

James Walker
13/02/2018 8:20 am

What a sleepy gallery in winter, but looking forward to seeing what they do in summer. Where else can you find old and dis-used garden chairs, refurbished as artworks for the modest price of £450?

Yul Turner
13/02/2018 2:10 pm
Reply to  James Walker

Wait to you see their summer chaise lounges, slightly more pricey.

Donna Summers
13/02/2018 2:19 pm
Reply to  Yul Turner

You can’t be serious Yul; this is the Belgrave in St Ives, not IKEA!!!

Ron Houston
25/02/2018 2:36 am
Reply to  Yul Turner

Hey Yul,
I found a picture of one of the chairs they sell at the Belgrave:–modern-art-in-st-ives-seated-group

There’s even a whole line of his furniture, Ernest Race:

However, if you missed out on the chair at the Belgrave you can buy another one as an antique in eBay, though perhaps not as nice as the one at the Belgrave:

Caroline Bradford
11/02/2018 12:50 am

Thanks to the work of the Belgrave Gallery, a piece of history was shown and in doing so is helping to preserve it. Sadly, your review belittled Sven Berlin’s work.

Could you tell me please how the atini-intellectual situation you refer to regarding Sven Berlin is being maintained in St Ives today?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x