Tuesday, April 5, 2016

‘Taking Space’ at the Crypt Gallery, St Ives

Last week I had the privilege of showing my monoprints alongside three well-established artists who are members of ‘Taking Space’. Those of you who have followed my writings will remember my article about Mary Fletcher, who founded the group in the early 1990s. ‘Taking Space’ continues to flourish, with six exhibitions last year, not only in St Ives, but also Penzance, Falmouth and Porthleven. Participants work democratically, sharing responsibility for organising and holding exhibitions, and maintaining the group’s profile between shows. The changing membership of this diverse collective of women artists working in Cornwall contributes to its energy and vitality.
Setting up: Karen and Beverley’s paintings
The latest show at the Crypt (and the first of 2016) included an array of watercolours by Karen Smith, who studied textiles and graphic design in Southend before moving to Truro. A member of ‘Taking Space’ since 2005, Karen has exhibited her work throughout Cornwall. Her sensitive representations of anemones and sweetpeas were described by visitors as ‘superb’ and ‘exuberant’.
Anemones III
Acrylic ink on canvas
Karen Smith
Interspersed among her watercolours were some very large abstract acrylic canvases, a new departure for this versatile artist who also excels at life drawing.
Karen Smith
In complete contrast were Beverley Morgante Le Levier’s bold, vibrant acrylic abstracts, reflecting this painter’s exuberant personality. Beverley is half Italian, and her paternal family roots have been traced back to eighteenth-century Florence. With a French husband, and family in Italy and Spain, Beverley’s command of three European languages comes in handy. Her artistic potential was recognised early on, but it was many years before circumstances allowed her to focus on forging an artistic career for herself.
Green Zephyr
Acrylic on canvas
Beverley Morgante Le Levier
Pink Zodiac
Acrylic on canvas
Beverley Morgante Le Levier
Entirely self-taught, Beverley is inspired by the interplay between colours and nature’s endless diversity of pattern, texture and form, particularly in micro-organisms. The use of a wide range of collaged elements in her work testifies to a rich imagination and adventurous spirit.
Having followed Mary Fletcher’s career over the years, I was intrigued to notice a change of direction in her latest work. ‘Looking towards Newfoundland’ is a large painting which eloquently expresses the frailty of the solitary figure, dwarfed by a vast expanse of sand, sea and sky. Reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich’s iconic ‘Monk by the Sea’, the power of this image stems from the fact that it speaks to the viewer on a variety of levels.
Looking towards Newfoundland ~ Mixed media/collage by Mary Fletcher
Mary’s creative energy seems boundless. St Ives Arts Club is hosting a solo show of her drawings, ‘Picturing Pedyr and other People’ until 8 April. And a small stoneware piece by her entitled ‘New Year Bear and Fairy’ can be seen at the Penwith Gallery until 16 April.
My introduction to the world of art making began in 2012 when I participated in, and then wrote about a printmaking course at Newlyn School of Art. I became fascinated by the element of surprise inherent in the monoprinting process.
Back home I started making cards and small framed images – each one unique, as a monoprint cannot be replicated.
A chance meeting with Mary Fletcher last autumn led to my application for membership of ‘Taking Space’. In February I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the group, becoming the 100th member since its inception! The prospect of exhibiting my work in such an awe-inspiring venue was thrilling yet terrifying. The Crypt’s association in 1946 with figures such as Peter Lanyon and Sven Berlin, joined later by Barbara Hepworth and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, represented a seminal moment in the narrative of St Ives modernism. It seemed that my monoprints had no place in such a hallowed setting. But once our artwork was in position (with the added bonus of pristine white walls and superb lighting) the Crypt seemed an entirely appropriate location for our show.
Helen's monoprints
The inspiration for ‘Luna with lunaria’ came from a friend who has a childhood recollection of her mother calling the seed cases of the honesty plant ‘moon pennies’. In this piece I experimented for the first time with mulberry paper, a delicate yet versatile material which I love for its fibrous, semi-transparent quality.
Luna with lunaria
Mixed media
Helen Hoyle
Mulberry paper also found its way into the dendritic monoprinting technique used in Fractal Forest (right, acrylic on mulberry paper).
Among the hundreds of visitors who saw our work last week were several former members. It was fascinating to hear of their experiences and to discover where their art practice has taken them over the years. By the end of the week-long show I felt exhilarated by the realisation that ‘Taking Space’ had given me an opportunity which might never otherwise have come my way. The prospect of participating in further shows this year is exciting. Whatever happens, the momentum and creative energy of ‘Taking Space’ has given me the confidence to question my self-imposed limitations, and the freedom to allow my artistic journey to unfold in a direction as yet unknown.
Karen Smith’s work is on permanent display at the Camelford Gallery. She is exhibiting during June and July in the Gallery Room at Bradworthy Inn, in Devon. From 5-14 July her paintings can be seen at the Cornwall Watercolour Society’s show at the Rock Institute.
Beverley Morgante Le Levier will be participating in a group show at the Old Lifeboat House in Porthleven from 23 to 29 July. Immediately afterwards, her work will be shown at the Crypt, in an exhibition running from from 30 July to 5 August.
‘Taking Space’ can be found at www.takingspace.co.uk and is also on Facebook.

© Helen Hoyle 2016

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