Sunday, December 18, 2005

A recent visit to Tate St. Ives revealed yet another video installation – this time by Tacita Dean. There is a lovely view across the beach from the semi circular atrium all changing light and weather - then they steer you into a darkened room to look at flickering black and white film shot in Berlin accompanied by harsh distorted sound - hardly a thrill. So moved on quickly to look again at the St. Ives modernists. Except for dear old Alfred Wallis whose reputation owes all to the misconceptions of Christopher Wood and Ben Nicholson they grow with renewed acquaintance. For me the best of the non figurative bunch is Bryan Wynter. The paintings are simple linear compositions embellished with gestural and dragged brush marks – very subtle and he’s sensitive to what paint can do. The best of his work of the 1950’s was probably produced while in the trance-like state induced by using mescalin. The drug was used to suppress the conscious and let the subconscious mind take over.

After this disappointment it was good to see a big exhibition in Truro at the Cornwall Museum of work by Kurt Jackson. These days he supplements his watercolours with large works on canvas in water media. He works the paint by splashing and dribbling or pouring onto the canvas laid flat on the ground – and done on site. These are large works with their longest dimension at around 2 metres. Stretched up and displayed in a large gallery they look great there’s a subtle spaciousness to them suggesting glimpses into open sunlit woodland – lovely sensations.

I’ve seen two exhibitions where Kurt shows video of himself at work on these large paintings. Once on a Cornish cliff top with the canvas weighted down with rocks he was dancing around barefoot over the canvas making use of the occasional footprint or toe scratchmark. In the Cornish show he was more sensibly wearing wellington boots. There was no commentary just the natural sounds of the breeze but it was entertaining to see him at work and, unlike the St. Ives installations, the video had a point.

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