Wednesday, 26 February 2020

CELEBRATING THE PENWITH ARTISTS AND AUTHORS THAT I'VE MET SINCE ARRIVING IN CORNWALL IN JANUARY 2013

I am a Penwith author. That statement feels more authentic than declaring that I am a Cornish author; I have lived only seven years in this wonderful county and I don't feel that entitles me to claim a Cornish identity yet. I do, however, want to mark the publication of my second book on Thursday 5 March - 'The Remarkable Life of Jago Stone - Once a Burglar; Always an Artist' (press this link for more details) - with this blogpost in which I celebrate those local writers and artists I've met whose work has made an impact on me during my Cornish years.


Untitled - Bobby Wotnot (Undated)



A couple of St Ives artists first - Bobby Wotnot - aka Pete Giles - and his partner, Zoe Eaton, who are the creative minds behind the Barnoon workshop. Pete and Zoe are both members of the St Ives Society of Artists, formed in 1927, and their work is available through Saatch Art online as well as other outlets. Press here for Zoe's website link. And press here for Pete's website link. I first discovered their work in an art gallery (now closed) on Tregenna Hill in St Ives in 2016. My father-in-law had died the year before and left me a legacy. I now had a small magic money-tree to spend on good causes such as self-publishing my first book and buying paintings by local artists whose work spoke to me. Here are images of works by Pete and Zoe that we now enjoy in our home. Their talent needs wider and wider recognition - and they are lovely people too.



Untitled - Bobby Wotnot (Undated)


Untitled - Zoe Eaton (2016)



Now a St Ives author, sadly no longer alive - Roy Phillips. Roy published under the name N.R. Phillips. He died in May 2019 at the age of 89, a son of St Ives in the words of Frank Ruhrmund who in his tribute in the St Ives Times and Echo remarked that Roy had once proudly told him how six generations of his family once lived in the same street of the town. In 1987, Roy won the TSB Peninsula Prize, the premier literary award for West Country novelists, for his novel set in a Cornish fishing village: 'The Saffron Eaters'. An acclaimed sequel followed in 1996: 'Horn of Strangers'. I met Roy when we were both guests of Clare Lynch at a meeting of her reading group in the summer of 2015. Clare is my brilliant saxophone teacher. I spoke about the draft of 'Deception', the work I had just completed. It was my reworking of John Bunyan's 'The Pilgrim's Progress' in the form of a story about a 21st century secular pilgrim who seeks an answer as to why there is so much suffering in our country at present. Roy gifted all of us a copy of his collection of short stories: 'Rainbows in the Spray' (2012), memorable and inspired tales of Cornwall in modern times and I listened to this humble man with growing respect. 'A Sweetheart Remembered', one of these stories, still fills me with shock and delight when I reread it; Roy wrote so well.  


Rainbows in the Spray - Roy Phillips (2012) - Palores



Within a week of that reading group meeting in 2015, Roy had written to me. Here are some extracts:

'Dear Rob,

On Thursday, the day after receiving it, I sat in my garden and read your typescript of 'Deception' right through. As I said at Clare's house, I can not claim to be 'literary', I just spin a bit of a yarn, but you might nevertheless be interested to know what my reaction to your work might be.
First I have to congratulate you on your insight of the right-wing mind set …. The idea of a political
pilgrim being guided through the quagmire of contemporary government is quite novel and an excellent method of depicting the global predicament. Your list of references lends, no! gives, an authority to your 'interpreter' that is irrefutable …. The only thing I really do not like is the title, which to me, does not do justice to the content …..
Many thanks for a good, thought-provoking read. Roy.'

Thank you, Roy - and if this has whetted any taste buds, here's the link to the book that Roy read - with the two chapters I wrote and added, after the 2015 General Election and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party. I then renamed it: 'The Road to Corbyn'.

And now a tribute to an artist I never met - Claire Healey - whose work greets me every day as I rise. It is in the upstairs gallery in our terraced home. I first saw it in the Redwing Gallery in Penzance in an auction preview in 2017 and knew I wanted to be this painting's steward.



Io Rescues Odysseus - Claire Healey (2016)


I also bought another painting that spoke to me at this auction by Jane Sand whom I did get to meet.



Ruined cottage on the moors near Boslow - Jane Sand (2015)



Jane wrote to me on 26 June 2017 - some extracts follow:

'Hi Rob,

.... Claire & I are so glad you like our paintings, and would like to see photos of them framed and in situ.
Claire  & I both bought copies of your book [The Road to Corbyn], & she also had a copy for her very politically aware 18-yr-old grandson …. I nearly didn't get it …. But Claire kept saying 'Don't be a slob, get on and read it!' So I did, & I think it's great. Yes, I totally agree with you that self-deception & hence the deception of others is the major problem, plus this dreadful myth of democracy …. All in all, a fascinating & inspiring book. Thank you for writing it. I keep telling Claire to get on and send you some feedback ....'

Sadly, Claire passed away in 2018 in her eighties; we never met but as an artist Claire remains very much alive.

And not just as an artist!

I knew that Claire had illustrated a book I had seen on a shelf in the Redwing Gallery in Penzance back in 2018; not before time, I got round two or three weeks ago to asking Roselyne Williams which book. Roselyne showed me and I discovered that Claire had written under the name Claire Collard and authored and illustrated three children's adventures. Her grandchildren had provided the inspiration. I bought the first in the series, the only one available: 'The Way to Penwellard' (2006-14), read it in four bites of the cherry - and am so happy to sing its praises. This is seriously wonderful story-telling, exciting and witty and profound. I would love to see Claire's book enjoyed by so many more children.

My wife, Louise, and I share a similar enthusiasm for one particular work of another Penwith author who writes under the pseudonym of William Joseph Brown. His work: 'A note from Winterbottom' (2015) is a tour de force, a thrilling helter-skelter ride through a landscape peopled by art dealers, spies, academics, thugs and murderers - and lots more beside. If you live in Penwith, sections of the book will appear very familiar. It's great fun, very clever and Mr Brown insists that all the inside knowledge of the world of espionage comes from the internet. Thoroughly recommended. Mr. Brown was also one of the guests, with Roy and me, at Clare Lynch's reading circle in 2015 and talked about his forthcoming book. Roy Phillips and I read the manuscript afterwards and are thanked in the acknowledgements. How cool is that!  Here's a link to a blogpost I published in 2017 all about W J Brown. You will find a full-enough biography of Mr Brown in the blogpost - be assured he is one of Cornwall's hidden jewels.

Where next on this journey tracing the creative contacts that have come my way in Penwith? The Redwing Gallery in Penzance deserves a special mention. I held a residency there in 2018 and gave five talks, all linked to blogposts - this is a link to the fifth one.  Roselyne Williams and Peter Fox are co-directors and talented artists - here are a couple of tasters:






Witch - Roselyne Williams (c.2013)


Untitled - Peter Fox (c.2013)




Mary Fletcher has exhibited at Redwing too. Mary's talents as both a writer and an artist are shown in this blogpost - 'Death, Grief, and Art' that I published in 2018 - press here. We have this Cornish landscape painting by Mary - shown below - in our own gallery, along with a smaller piece inspired by the Occupy movement in 2011. Mary's husband, Pedyr Prior, was a respected Labour Party comrade. He died in 2018.



Untitled - Mary Fletcher (2016)



Jo McIntosh is the partner of my web-designer, Steve McIntosh, and an inspiring textile artist. Here is one piece of Jo's that hangs in our gallery.




Untitled - Jo McIntosh (2017)



And here is my blogpost celebration of a magnificent piece of textile art that Jo supervised in St Ives - press here for this piece of creative history-making in stitches. 

My latest discovery of creative talent in Penwith has been the work of Aaron Broadhurst from Penzance. Press this link for his latest sketches.


To close, what better than a video celebrating Louise Donovan's exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in November 2018 - with photo credits to Leo and Larisa Walker.

 

3 comments:

  1. WOW - it feels great to be included among so many artist who I admire .. I would like to add that Roy Ray, another St Ives Artist, taught me and changed the direction of my textile art - I owe him a great deal

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  2. Yes - Roy Ray should have got a mention from me - I saw his wonderful exhibition in Coventry Cathedral one summer when I was still examining and it was so moving.

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