Cornwall LivingIssue #150

Into the Light

Formerly a pilchard packing factory, Penwith Gallery plays host to an exciting programme of both contemporary and historical exhibitions year-round.

You’ll find Penwith Gallery on Back Road West, St Ives, set back from the hubbub of the town centre and providing a welcome refuge for visitors with its big, cool, beautifully lit rooms, glass roof and charming sculpture courtyard.

First opening its doors in 1961, the gallery is the home of the Penwith Society of Arts. Founded in 1949 by such luminaries as Dame Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Sven Berlin and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, the PSA have contemporary work by their Society members on display all year round, alongside month-long guest exhibitions in the two other main galleries, an archive exhibition space and a gallery shop showing works by local artists and craftspeople. The gallery is genuinely artist-led and run, with the Society selecting guest exhibitions and all of the staff having their own artistic practice. With all works for sale and the gallery also offering the popular OwnArt scheme, visitors from all walks of life can not only visit for free but also take home beautiful original artworks.
The Penwith is an active part of the local community, offering a rich programme of events throughout the year including workshops for local children and talks and concerts during the St Ives September Festival. A highlight of the gallery line-up is the popular Young Penwith Artists scheme, now in its third year.

This annual programme was created in 2022 to support young artists based in Cornwall, providing the chosen recipients with a funded month-long exhibition in the Studio Gallery during the Summer season. Open to artists within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly aged 35 and under, up and coming artists are encouraged to submit their work and engage with the gallery to create their own professional show. The exhibition is funded by the Penwith Society of Arts, with the goal of the programme to create stronger opportunities and connections with younger artists based in Cornwall. This year’s Young Penwith Artists are Imogen Allen and
Ellie Brown.

Imogen Allen is a painter whose work explores the energetic terrain of our conscious and subconscious experience through the physical language of colour, shape and gesture. Her paintings are luminous, meditative portals of reflection, which embrace the physicality of our earth as a pathway to the spiritual, transcendental experience.

Having grown up near Zennor, on the edge of a moorland of lichen-blanketed standing stones and ethereal grasses, Allen sees the human relationship to wildness as central to the architecture of our being. Her work is informed deeply by this profound connection to the voices of the natural world. This new group of works have the inner light of nature at their core. Through painting the intricate structures of lichens, fungi and flowers, Allen’s new series offers a profound interconnection between one’s inner being and the more-than-human world.

Ellie Brown is a sculptor whose artistic journey is marked by a deep connection to the female form, the landscapes that have inspired them and the sculptors encountered along the way. Her work is born of a profound artistic exploration and cultivated through education, experiences and residencies. Starting her art education with a BA(Hons) in Fine Art at Falmouth University from 2017 to 2020, Ellie received the Cultivator graduate start-up fund, as well as taking part in a two-month residency at the esteemed Porthmeor studios and participating as an assistant in the annual Lapidiales Sculpture Symposium in France. Continuing her academic journey, she embarked on an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins at the end of 2022.

Throughout Ellie’s journey, her unwavering passion for the female form has been a constant source of inspiration. It is the eternal muse that shapes the work. ‘Light on Her Skin’ brings together a collection of sculpted female forms, carved in stone. Drawing attention to the intricate relationship between light and stone, as well as the interplay between skin and sculpture. Throughout the carving process and beyond, light is the gentle guide, revealing the subtle details of line and texture.

Imogen Allen’s ‘Lumen’ and Ellie Brown’s ‘Light on her Skin’ open in the Studio Gallery and the Sculpture Courtyard respectively on Friday 26th July at 5:30pm, and run until Saturday 24th August. The preview is at 5:30pm on Friday 26th July, all are welcome.


Penwith Gallery
Back Road West, St. Ives, TR26 1NL
01736 795579