Newlyn Society of Artists is an exclusive group in that artists have to apply to be chosen as members and then apply to be in each show subject to selection.
This show had a theme of celebrating the history of the society with many members referencing particular artists from the past membership over 125 years.
I happened to go when they were having a public discussion about the society and when I arrived they were discussing if the society could provide an online source and publicity for information that might include social community art.
Art therapy was mentioned without anyone gasping in horror. When Mike Tooby, past director of Tate St Ives had interviewed me 20 years ago (I forget what about) he said they threw away applications that mentioned art therapy but they fished mine out of the bin because they liked my drawings. Now there’s an artist exhibiting in the Tate drawings done by himself as art therapy when he was a child in Kosovo.
So somehow what I took to be based in fear of being associated with mental illness has dissipated as the wheel turns.
It’s a diverse show with most artists doing what they usually do but managing to fit it into the brief.
Delpha Hudson had a picture with women and children in it and referenced Elizabeth Forbes. Winnie Lyn on the other hand showed some lumpy white objects as far from Terry Frost’s work as could be imagined, although she said she was inspired by it.
Julia Giles had a similar motivation to Peter Lanyon in being influenced by her sensory memory of landscape.
Kate Waters had chosen fellow mystical dreamer Ithell Colquhoun to ally with. Her painting was a smeary sexual looking image.
Noel Betowski had chosen to show a painting that depicted complex patterns of folded paper and he had been inspired by two paintings with paper lanterns by Percy Gotch and George Sherwood Hunter.
Pippa Young said in her statement that her inspiration was the act of creation in general and her image was a strange figure combining white and black body parts.
Of course such a theme dangerously invites comparisons with the more famous past members’ works, long known and loved and done with the sort of skill and observation that many visitors admire more than our present confusion of styles and media.
There’s bound to be something of interest and something to hate for most visitors in the 68 exhibits.
The panel discussion came to an end. It suggested some new social awareness and political involvement with the local community, perhaps to revitalise this oh so middle class elite enclave where pictures cost thousands of pounds and membership is closely guarded. But were these suggestions coming mostly from academics and other non members involved with education etc? We will see.
Newlyn Society of Artists. ‘Past,Present,Future’ at Tremenheere Gallery Oct 16 to Nov 7 , 2021
Volume 36 no 3 January / February 2022