For its first exhibition of 2020, Jerwood Collection has loaned fourteen works to Cornwall as Crucible: Modernity and Internationalism in Mid-century Britain.
Curated by Lara Wardle, Director, Jerwood Collection, this exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham takes a fresh look at artists working in and around St Ives from the 1930s to 1960s, and explores how and why this seemingly remote West Cornish town established itself as a hotbed of experiment and modernism during this period.
Taking as its inspiration the Barber’s Constructivist sculpture, Linear Construction in Space No.1 (1942 – 43) by the Russian artist Naum Gabo, this exhibition which draws on the rich resources of the Jerwood Collection, considers the relationships and networks between artists who were living and working in Cornwall; examines their development of a visual language that explored the boundary between representation and abstraction; and demonstrates the impact of the distinctive Cornish landscape upon their art.
Where do I get my forms from? . . . I find them everywhere around me … I see them in the green thicket of leaves and trees. I can find them in the naked stones on hills and roads. … I look and find them in the bends of waves on the sea between the open work of foaming crests.
-Naum Gabo, writing from Cornwall to critic and art historian, Herbert Read in 1944
The exhibition’s interpretation includes sound recordings from the British Library’s Artists’ Lives archive, selected to illustrate the exhibiton's themes. including questions about the nature of influence.
Alongside works by Dame Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Peter Lanyon, the exhibition includes two paintings recently acquired by Jerwood Collection; Vista, 1955 by John Wells, and Untitled, 1958, by Sandra Blow RA.