The preview was full of artists who knew one another, and had a lively buzz which erupted after an introductory talk. Dr. Ryya Bread curated the show.
Each work had the writing that inspired it also on the wall, not always exhibited at a good height for reading. Some of the writings were poems. It was a constant challenge to respond with any visual art that could rival an often well known and loved piece.
The Newlyn Society having lost its original Newlyn Gallery space has found Neil Armstrong’s attractive gallery next to his sculpture park, restaurant, shop and plant stall, a useful alternative. Members, selected by a committee, have to submit their works on a chosen theme.
There is enough variety amongst probably 50 works for visitors to find something to like or hate, to make them think or of which to despair of making any sense.
Upstairs Susannah Clemence quoted from Milton’s Paradise Lost where Eve is wondering whether to tell Adam about the tree of knowledge and her richly coloured oil painting showed Eve amongst foliage, holding an apple and nearby the serpent. I hadn’t thought about this, that if the woman gave Adam the apple to eat there was a moment when she could decide to keep it for herself.
Nearby there was a painting of the coast from St. Agnes showing patterns of light on the water. This was by Stuart Ross, but made more noteworthy by the words next to it, ‘Painting of a rice cake’ which referenced a thirteenth century text, ‘a painted rice cake does not satisfy hunger’, and commentary about the nature of reality and painted images.
Andrew Swan had etched on aluminium an image of a female head representing homeless women next to statistics about this circumstance and a stamp with the same head replacing that of the Queen, next to the lyrics of God Save the Queen.
Downstairs Duncan Walters offered ‘The reference section’, a chalk drawing of a computer on slate done so understatedly and cleverly that I at first thought it was a laptop. It was on a table with one leg propped up on books.
Gordon Ellis-Brown offered ‘Houston we have a problem’, printed on his aluminium panel next to a group of women like Steptford wives, almost merging into the background, maybe the wives of the spacemen, maybe representing the parallel exploration of how to rethink the status quo to accommodate the feminist demands of women.
Karen Lorenz made reference to a Roland Barthes essay. Her work was about dementia, the death of the person in a way as broken up jumbled images on video played within a printed book, the text upside downand and a tiny paper house on top. This was very eloquently sorrowful.
A show with many memorable images which repays time and attention. A show which demanded that artists grapple with ideas and which maybe shows a welcome trend to comment on contemporary life seriously.
‘Ex Libris’ – in response to chosen writings, Newlyn Society of Artists at Tremenheere Gallery. Penzance, Cornwall 3 – 21 April, 2019
Volume 33 no 5 May / June 2019