Cornwall LivingIssue #72

The colour and the shape

Tate St Ives celebrates the life and work of abstract artist Patrick Heron in a new landmark exhibition.

Tate St Ives will be celebrating the acclaimed British artist Patrick Heron (1920 to 1999) this summer. This retrospective will be the first major show of his work for 20 years. One of the most significant and innovative figures in 20th Century British art, Heron played a major role in the development of post-war abstract art.

“Colour is both the subject and the means; the form and the content; the image and the meaning, in my painting today” – Patrick Heron, 1962

It runs from 19th May to 30th September 2018. This exhibition – spanning over 50 years of work from 1943 to 1996 – brings together 45 colour-saturated paintings, including rarely seen works from public and private collections around the world.

It is a rare opportunity to experience the scope and ambitious scale of Heron’s painting.

Heron’s abstraction is a direct response to the light, colour and shape that he encountered every day. An art of pure visual sensation, his paintings are the result of his experience of looking acutely at the world and though they do not represent the garden and landscape surrounding his home and studio in Cornwall, those forms resonate in his painting in fundamental ways.

The exhibition in the new top-lit gallery at Tate St Ives is the first opportunity to bring together a group of these large-scale expansive works to Cornwall, and reveal the full evolution of his vibrant abstract language. It will unlock new insights into his art and encourage all visitors to enjoy the simple and joyous act of looking.

Rather than a conventional retrospective, with a chronological display, this show is a succession of spaces and juxtapositions across the full breadth of his career to encourage a new understanding of his achievement as an artist and the creative processes he followed.

Born in Leeds, Heron spent his early childhood in Cornwall. The family left after five years, but Heron returned, first in 1944 to 1945 when he came to work for Bernard Leach at the Leach Pottery in St Ives. Whilst he was there, he met many leading of the modernist artists associated with St Ives, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. He then spent each summer there until 1956, when he moved permanently to Zennor, west Cornwall. He was foremost a painter, however during his career, he worked in a variety of media, from the silk scarves he designed from the age of 14, for his father’s company Cresta, to the beautiful stained-glass window at the entrance of Tate St Ives.

To accompany this major exhibition, a fantastic range of events and activities will be running over the summer. For families, Tate Create returns during the school holidays. In the summer it will be the Big Paint Challenge and it’s all about colour. Get your paintbrushes ready and help us to transform our Foyle Studio into an exhibition of artworks, inspired by Patrick Heron but made by you. The Tate’s Super Sunday on 1st July is aimed at families to join in and take over the galleries with a host of activities. Experiment in the ‘Colour Lab’ and mix up your own crazy colourful creations. Play with projections, explore the galleries with your own puppet person and then join the team on the beach for some outdoor art.

There is also the opportunity to find out more behind the artwork in the series St Ives Stories. In July take a closer look at the life and work of artist Patrick Heron with his former personal assistant Janet Axten.

You can explore the history of modern art in St Ives in the dedicated rooms, giving key artists a permanent presence in the town where they lived and worked. The display follows those artists across the 20th Century, revealing their relationships to international art histories.

From the unique perspective of St Ives, visitors will be able to bridge geographical and chronological boundaries and discover new connections through familiar artists.

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Don’t forget, if you are a resident in Cornwall, you can pick up a Tate St Ives Locals’ Pass for the introductory price of £5 for a year of free entry to the gallery.

Please go to the website for more information

"Colour is both the subject and the means; the form and the content; the image and the meaning, in my painting today"