Cornwall LivingIssue #85

The colour and the shape

Cornish colours, shapes and visual memories translate into vibrant contemporary art at this year’s Open Studios Cornwall.

Words by Jilly Easterby

Some 291 artists, designers and makers from Lamorna to Launceston; St Buryan to Bude are preparing to throw open their studio doors and share their practice in this, the 15th year of Open Studios Cornwall.

Between Saturday 25th May and Sunday 2nd June, sculptors, textile artists and botanical illustrators; printmakers, potters and painters will welcome visitors to refurbished fish cellars and converted cow sheds; Reading Rooms and Sunday Schools, shepherd’s huts and medieval manors to experience one of the UK’s most evocative art trails.

“Whether creating work that responds to Cornwall – the interplay between shadow and sunlight; the textures of the tideline; the scars of its industrial past; the elemental power of the natural world – or to the transience of life and the potency of memory, the county’s creatives are ready to greet you,” explains Open Studios Cornwall Project Manager, Karen Raymond.

Ella Carty is one such participant whose work responds to the colours and shapes of Cornwall as well as remembrances past.

“Whether it is a seascape, a garden or a boatyard, it is the shapes, the colours and the feeling they evoke that are transcribed and applied to the canvas in two-dimensional form,” explains Ella. “The vivid, luminous seaweed found on the Isles of Scilly, and the contrast of colours and textures to be found within the boatyards of Falmouth, Penryn and Gweek are an omnipresent source of inspiration for me, whether it is the shadow that a net casts on the side of a fishing boat, or the particular hue of a faded buoy.”

This was not always the case, however. “When love lured me to Cornwall five years ago, I had never lived by the sea before and seascapes wowed me,” Ella adds. “In fact, I painted seascapes all the time. Then I visited the ‘Late Turner – Painting Set Free’ exhibition at The Tate and his painterly, rich, semi abstracts with their sumptuous colour and deft handling of the paint stopped me in my tracks because they were so incredible and could never be beaten. This experience made me take a U-turn and try something else.”

“When love lured me to Cornwall five years ago, I had never lived by the sea before and seascapes wowed me”

Ella was from a creative family – her sister is an illustrator, her mother is a talented seamstress; her grandmother and uncle are painters. She had been drawn to vibrant colours from a very young age, playing with the brightly decorated Masai Mara beads that her family had brought home from Nairobi upon their return to the UK when Ella was two.

In her artist’s statement, Ella talks about ‘liquid pools of cobalt blue stubbed out by crimson or layers of spectre grey’ and her obsession with the ‘smeariness’ and smell of paint. Describing a recent visit to Nice, “the azure sky is etched on my mind: the geometric strips of azure blue above the buildings when you take a moment to look up from the narrow streets.”

“As you go through your formal training at art college you cherry-pick elements from the work of other artists who inspire you – Patrick Heron, Howard Hodgkin, Matisse.” says Ella. “I constantly refer back to the skills I learned there, whether considering the principles of colour theory or the discipline of life drawing.”

Photography had also played a part in Ella’s upbringing and this has clearly influenced her creative process. “When my Dad got a job as a teacher in Nairobi and moved out there with my Mum in the 1970s, he used a Canon camera to shoot black and white film so we have some fantastic slide shows about Kenya and the most beautiful collection of imagery,” Ella explains. “When I moved to Cornwall, I was given an old SLR camera and started taking lots of photographs to help me memorise what I saw. I used them as a reference point so that I could remember the intensity of a particular blue, for example. Sometimes, my partner encourages me to paint a photograph because it is so good but copying an image is never enough for me. I have to work from visual memory. I have to put the photographs away.”

For Ella, it is all about the looking and the absorbing of things. About observation, sensitivity and felt experience.

“Then some sort of magic happens,” she adds. “The red might change how the blue looks. You go into battle and have a conversation with the artwork as you are painting it. Things feed into your psyche without you realising it. Something that has been visually striking, that I have noticed and remembered, can suddenly appear in a painting, unconsciously. It is the surprise of the final outcome that excites me.”

Visit Ella during Open Studios Cornwall in Studio W21 in the Main Building at Krowji, Redruth. Ella’s work is also available to purchase at

Artist Trail
To create your own art trail, obtain a copy of the Open Studios Cornwall 2019 guide, which is available from hundreds of locations across Cornwall or by calling Open Studios Cornwall on 01209 313200. Alternatively, you can bookmark on your mobile phone and navigate the studios with the help of Google Maps. Each venue is clearly indicated by an orange ‘O’ so watch out for them as you travel around.

The guide is divided into north, east, mid and west Cornwall. Within each section, artists are listed geographically then alphabetically.
You can either plan to visit a certain location and look up artists who are exhibiting in that area or select an artist to visit and discover who else is in their neighbourhood.

Artists Profiles

Some of the many artists featured at this year’s Open Studios:

Paul Ryan
Mixed Media/Printmaking – Falmouth

On walks along the Penryn River, Paul collects the marine panels he finds. Adding to the natural marks on their surfaces with printed imagery and collage, he applies his knowledge of Modernist art to transform found objects into contemporary works.


Jill Goodman

Painting – Launceston

Jill’s abstract and landscape paintings in oils, acrylics and watercolour are inspired by the colours and moods of Bodmin Moor, the Lynher Valley and the Cornish coast. Her roots lie deep in the Bodmin landscape, which Jill knows especially well.


Evelyn Binns

Botanical Illustration/Painting – Constantine

Combining strict botanical accuracy, life-like representation and attractive composition – and inspired by Pierre Joseph Redoute (1759-1840) who rose from obscurity to become painter of roses for Marie-Antoinette at Versailles – Evelyn’s work has been commissioned by members of our Royal Family including HRH The Prince of Wales.


Carolle Blackwell

Ceramics and Printmaking – St Buryan, Penzance

Through her interest in Egyptian artefacts connected to ancient burial customs, Carolle discovered the 6th century Japanese ceramics called ‘Haniwa’. She now creates them for protection and good fortune from local stoneware clay. Whilst they evoke an ancient past, they are modern in
their simplicity.


Susi Gutiérrez

Digital Media/Mixed Media – St Ives

A former journalist, writer and archaeologist from Peru, Susi moved to Cambridge to study fine art at Anglia Ruskin. Her paintings, videos and prints often reflect her attempt to build bridges with a different territory and language. She likens the process to digging; trying to find treasures and clues through shapes and colours.