Living in Devon, there are disappointingly few galleries and museums, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in the fact that all the exhibitions that occur are in walking distance of each other, and a curse in that I need more…loads more! However, luckily being a Devon dumpling means I live a lot closer to Cornwall than most, subsequently allowing me to check out the art that the Cornish have to offer pretty often and therefore bringing me to what I’m writing about today. I recently visited the Patrick Heron exhibition at Tate St. Ives and it was a bold explosion of magic to say the least.
Patrick Heron, born in Leeds in 1920, grew up in Cornwall for the rest of his life, where he also passed away in 1999. This exhibition at the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2018 explores Heron’s work from the 1940s until his death and is curated in such a way that travels through his life with fluency and ease. Despite the exhibition going into little detail about Heron, his art did that for him. The inspiration Heron took from artists such as Matisse and Cézanne is clear in every piece of art that is exhibited (perhaps this is why I like his art so much) and created a light ambience of abstraction and fun. Heron explored the connection between shape, line and colour within his work, making it not only compatible with Matisse’s famous cut-outs, but also resonating with Kandinsky’s colour theory which I am oh so fond of.
I couldn’t choose a clear favourite from this magical exhibition, and therefore I have two equal winners. The first being Azalea Garden (I liked this so much I bought a print of it…) which was painted in 1956. This painting hypnotised me for longer than I care to remember. The way Heron has applied the paint here is so lyrical, it is almost singing. Beneath the white smears of heavy-handed paint application are strokes of reds, oranges and purples that are so vibrant and captivating they almost transport you into the painting! I haven’t been quite so encapsulated by a piece of art in a long time, so to find this just a couple of hours from little old Devon was a triumph.
The second on my list of Heron favourites is 10-11 July, 1992. I’m not sure whether I like this painting due to its diversity from not only the rest of the exhibition, but art in general, or because my friend exclaimed in the middle of the gallery, “I could do that”, but either way I love this piece. The complexity of the composition of this painting is something I am hugely in awe of (I WISH I could do that). The landscape nature it has is so warped, yet you can clearly make out the lines of the leaves, pebble-like shapes and a discernible sun that we can’t be sure is rising or setting at the top of the painting. Also, may I just say that the colours in this piece are INCREDIBLE…how anyone can get a pigment that violet is beyond me.
And so that concludes my little love letter to Patrick Heron and his art I aspire to create in another life. Cornwall may be a hub of arts and crafts, and somewhere a lot of people probably think no ‘real’ artistic talent emerges, but Heron, a Zennor man through and through, quite clearly changed that stereotype. So, next time you’re passing through Cornwall (I am aware that no one merely ‘passes through Cornwall’) be sure to stop off at Tate St. Ives and take a look at the amazing Cornish art on offer, including the mesmerising ode to Patrick Heron, on display until September 30th (quick, you only have a little over a month)!
Written by Milly Cooke