The Last Bohemia
Terry Frost at the Belgrave, St Ives
This exhibition of Terry Frost: A Book of Ideas with 32 works on paper from his scrapbook has an importance
Terry Frost is a major painter from the post-war era when the St Ives school established itself as a major force in contemporary art. St Ives was the last Bohemia in which Artists and writers by practice could, and did, shape the form and course of the avant garde. St Ives is a spectacular but small town surrounded and immersed by the great beauty of Penwith on the edge of the Atlantic ocean.
The commitment to abstraction was a mantra, paramount and absolute to most senior artists of the St Ives School. This exhibition provides an insight into a very pure artist who took the promise of abstraction to the edge of artist practice. The work is bright, colorful, strong and precise through the definition of shape and forms juggled and made accessible in the selection of this exhibition titled ‘The Book of Ideas’.
Expressive in feeling, though not an expression in the usual way of activated or tortured paint surface of fast moving energetic or overcharged gesturing. These works possess power for the discerning viewer.Avant garde and in some respects formulaic each work presents its own unique problem of focus. It is possible to consider that a well-honed lesson or influence entered into Terry Frost’s research. in the pioneering work of the Parisian abstract painter, Sonia Delauney (1885-1979) seems to be appreciated and Frost takes it forward as his contribution to the course of Modernism.
Terry Frost adds a dimension that Sonia Delaunay would not have considered. The inclusion of hand written poetic words, which read on a separate adjacent page “Time and the bellhave buried the dayThe black cloud carriesthe Sun away.This work and a few others combine words and form into a unity which could be considered as a poetic tombstone, maybe an anticipation of death, certainly, a memorable visual experience This work as
some others in the show are collaged. Pointing to Frost’s tactile, and aesthetic imagination. He can find a visual dynamic and explore aesthetic possibilities in the materials of the studio. This writer remembers Terry Frost’s homilies, the one that is reawakened which is conjured up by this exhibition: “Life is a bowl of cherries” Unfettered Zesty enthusiasm was the man which is evidenced in the artist.
The initial experience of the show is jolly bright colors in circles squares and triangles bouncing around on the wall. Suggesting a joy that manifests in children’s art. Terry Frost has discovered or rediscovered and plays to the hilt the innocence of children’s art. But he maintains and orchestrates these simple urges as is only possible by a master artist.Given the dreadful dross of the tourist trade and the exhausted art that St Ives supports clinging on to the idea and recycling the remnants of yesterday’s glory, this show is a welcome gleam of light from a time gone by.
Price range £3,000 – £5,000.
Derek Guthrie is the Publisher and co-founder of the New Art Examiner. he had three sell-out shows in London before the age of 24 and knew many of the St Ives School. He is a lecturer and teacher.
Volume 32 no. 1 September/October 2017 p 29