Koans take centre stage in St Ives summer exhibition

An exhibition at the Tate St Ives will have a familiar feel for anyone who’s ever visited the University of Warwick’s Warwick Arts Centre – and another piece in the show may well ring bells for those who’ve visited The Herbert in Coventry.

The Tate’s summer exhibition, Images Moving Out Into Space, takes its name from a series of kinetic sculptures that Bryan Wynter began to make in the 1960s – this is the Cornwall-based artist’s centenary year. The exhibition leaflet says the exhibition uses the series, which Wynter called Imoos, to “consider how abstraction can move us”.

Gallery 1 though features a series of koans by Liliane Lijn – a large one of which has stood outside the Arts Centre for decades, ready to feature in student sci-fi fantasies and be the backdrop to graduation pictures. They are apparently so named because of the similarity to cone, which they look like, and the Japanese word pronounced koan, which means question without an answer. The room full of differently-named, differently sized, but similarly-shaped spinning koans certainly brought on a sense of déjà vu.

The exhibition includes other works linked to the theme, though it’s not always obvious how.

The fascinating Dan Flavin’s work “monument” for V Tatlin from 1969-70 features white fluorescent tubes, and there’s a further room of his work, all in T shapes made up of different coloured fluorescent tubes, and a quote from Flavin: “it’s important to me that I don’t get my hands dirty….it’s a declaration: art is thought.”

John Divola’s Zuma project involves photographs of a derelict house by the sea, each one showing changes in it or developments brought about by him or others, and a number of sculptures including works by big-name artists including Elizabeth Frink, but casually laid out on tables created by Nicholas Deshayes so they are easy to almost disregard.

There are also lots of typical paintings by Bridget Riley, and by Bryan Wynter, including Saja of 1969, and Green Confluence and Red River; lots are concerned with the flow of water, as suited a keen canoeist. There’s also one Imoo, number VI, from 1965, hanging between rooms where you can linger to see yourself reflected, then not, in the slowly moving shapes.

It’s not a perfect exhibition but fun and interesting, and with those déjà vu moments for anyone who’s familiar with the koan at least.



Tate St Ives and other exhibitions in town add to September visit

A little trip down to St Ives, and I somehow managed to sniff out an exhibition opening night – and also visit what I think is probably the best exhibition I’ve seen at the Tate.

While wandering off to dinner I discovered Wild Heaven opening at Uys Gallery in Tregenna Hill, St Ives, described as a celebration of landscape by St Ives artists, with the exhibition continuing throughout the current St Ives festival. A cheeky glass of red and a look round before my meal were both rewarding.

There are 45 pieces by a number of artists, and include paintings, drawings, and ceramics. Barbara Turner Jones’s three paintings, Wave Near Godrevy I, II and III are well executed and attractive, small works with close ups of the waves and some background detail.

Michele Wright’s Oystercatchers and other works from nature show quality detailed observations from nature. Samuel Winterburn’s three works showing an interesting use of colour and tight detail, especially Fox Loves the Foxgloves.

Colin Smith’s Engine House is a line drawing of a typical St Ives sight, Mel Sheridan’s Nancledra seems to show allium heads against a background, and works by Melanie Uys, Trevor Price and Liz Luckwell also stand out. There are many galleries in St Ives but this one’s definitely worth a look round.

Also showing some big-name works is Belgrave St Ives, where pieces by Roger Hilton, Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham, Sven Berlin, and Terry Frost amongst others are also on show until the end of September.

The Tate St Ives is celebrating its twenty first year in the town, and its current exhibition also until September 28 is International Exchanges: Modern Art and St Ives 1915-65, which according to the publicity aims to show the art of St Ives “to place it not in relation to where it was made but in relation to what was made, how it was made and its position in wider international modern art”. What this means is an exhibition of works by artists associated with St Ives, but also pieces from wider afield.

My favourites were sculptures by Brancusi and Giacometti. There are also sculptural pieces from Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Eric Gill, and The Spider, a suspended work by Alexander Calder.

Other memorable pieces include Cossacks 1910-11 by Kandinsky, Schooner Under the Moon by Arthur Wallis (amongst others), George Bracque’s Guitar and Jug, Bryan Wynter’s Cyclamen, a Rothko, Number 23 by Jackson Pollock, and works by Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron. Ceramics are represented by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada.

Information boards and a guide bring it all together in a way that makes sense, as well as including some top quality works by well-known St Ives artists, and those not normally associated with the town.

If there was ever an excuse needed to get down to St Ives before the end of September, the current exhibitions there seem to provide it.