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The first an auction at the PZ Gallery with prosecco and canapés, and art by Rose Hilton, Jessica Cooper, Sam Bassett and others…
The second, with another covetable poster designed by Pirrip Press, takes place the gardens of the comprehensively gorgeous B&B Venton Vean (which temporarily fulfils a wish I expressed 3 years ago on this blog: for them to open a tea garden!).
Tomorrow is the last day of Jessica Cooper‘s show at the Belgrave Gallery in St Ives – a quite rare solo exhibition on home turf, fittingly called ‘About Home’. It was a real pleasure to be asked to write the introductory essay for the show, which follows below.
Much of the inspiration for this piece of writing came from attending her two-day course at Newlyn School of Art entitled ‘Essence of Form’ back in March. It provides not only a thoroughly absorbing insight into how she works but also encourages a micro awareness of what switches you on visually – even if you’re a total beginner like me. Scroll down for a slideshow of pics from the course, bookable here for September.
Jessica Cooper: About Home / Introductory essay by Ismay Atkins
Like the comic silence that treads a thrilling fine line; the pregnant pause in a bar of music; the short line of poetry that gathers emotion in refrain, Jessica Cooper’s apparent simplicity on canvas is her most courageous and impactful tool.
The temptation might be to call it minimalism, with its implication of stripping away – or simplicity, with its suggestion of naiveté – but more accurately this is mindfulness of art: a honing of awareness; an attentiveness of mind; and an openness to meaning, wherever it might be found.
To watch Cooper at work is to observe a tireless quest for this all-important meaning. As she prepares for a painting in her ever-present sketchbook, she explores and distils the subject until finding what she describes as its ‘core’: the part or parts in which she finds value, essence, emotion, substance or significance, impact or import. Once found, all else falls beyond the borders of the canvas, the noise of life is turned to fade, and she focuses with a rare clarity: on a shade of green, a line, a curve, a leaf, a corner, a tree, a house.
While Cooper has long been an artist who breathes emotion into the still life, never perhaps has a collection of her paintings been more emotionally resonant than this homecoming show in her native West Penwith, composed as it is of objects and landscapes that have shaped, and continue to shape, her life. Whether it’s a cup made by her grandmother, used by four generations; an acutely reminiscent view from the coastal road from St Just to St Ives; or a commonplace modern kitchen chair, Cooper seems to elevate the domestic and the personal to greater significance.
While the effect might be one of effortless clarity, the filtering out of extraneous detail isnotoriously demanding in any art form. It requires well-honed skill, but still more, it demands conviction and courage. Denied the props of supporting structures, and freed from the restraints of dogged detail, Cooper’s paintings place themselves in a bold position of vulnerability. A wedge of lemon on the kitchen surface. A house on a hill. An oval of soap next to the bath. How can she know we will care? Artistically, Cooper leaves herself as precarious and protruding as a tree on the moors of West Penwith.
Yet this vulnerability, for me, is the very thing that imbues this body of works with strength and meaning. It is the thing that makes a painting of a humble bowl of pears strong and important.
In short, we care because she cares. We believe in it because she does. It is a confidence that is quite contagious.
‘About Home’ shows until 28th June at Belgrave Gallery Belgrave St Ives, 22/22a Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1HE. T (01736) 794888 W www.belgravestives.co.uk
Jessica tweets at @jcooperpainter
‘They were beautiful, the most beautiful skies as a matter of fact. Um, the sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire, and the clouds would catch the colours everywhere’.
Ahh, anyone else remember this ambient 1991 track by the Orb? One bite of a pillowy Cloud 9 marshmallow took me straight back to this song of my youth. These “little fluffy clouds” are handmade gourmet marshmallows made in Port Eliot, adapted from a traditional French recipe and made in beautifully executed flavours like Crème de Violette, Lemon Meringue and Double Raspberry, then finished with details like crystallised flowers, rose petals or crushed pistachios.
They bear virtually no resemblance to the chewy shop-bought marshmallow – this falls somewhere dreamy between a soufflé and a meringue. File under ‘very special occasions’.
£6.95 per pack, available at Selfridges, St Michael’s Mount and online at http://cloudninemarshmallows.co.uk
The Jubilee Pool in Penzance is a thing of great beauty – with smooth deco white lines, a cool triangular shape and views out into Mount’s Bay. Or at least it was. It took an unprecedented hammering in the winter storms and it’s now a desperately sad sight on the Penzance seafront: strewn with rocks and debris, and its future seriously in jeopardy.
The Friends of the Jubilee Pool are currently lobbying Cornwall Council to match-fund their application to the Coastal Communites Fund, and they need your help. I quote, ‘Without this match funding it is highly unlikely the bid will be successful and the pool will be in real danger of closing for ever.’
It’s easy to lull ourselves into a false sense of security that someone else will sort this out – that someone somewhere high up will make sure that Penzance doesn’t lose one of its finest assets – but unfortunately this seems far from guaranteed.
Time is of the essence, so please register your support at the following online petition. It takes less than a minute.
I’ve messed around with wave pics before but some events call for the professionals – and the Herculean storm that battered Cornish shores this January was one of them. So it is a treat to feature the work of PZ photographer and pasties & cream friend Mike Newman during these brine-soaked days. These two pictures also made their way to the Guardian, the Times and Telegraph.
Here’s what Mike had to say about the experience. “Shooting the Hercules storm was an amazing but busy day for me as a photographer. The hype surrounding its approach was as large as the predicted waves and my photographic anticipation was further increased by my interest as a surfer. Howling winds and heavy seas meant Porthleven was a misty, windy, apocalyptic spectacle when I arrived, somehow reminiscent of a film set dotted with photographers and storm watchers, under a watery half-light and scurrying clouds.
The ground was shaking at the top of the cliff as solid waves hit the shore, always preceded by an ominously heavy ‘crump’ as they unfolded onto the beach. I’ve seen bigger waves but these ones were so thick, they carried a massive amount of power, sending huge plumes of spray over the houses on top of the cliff. And over expensive camera equipment if you didn’t get covered up in time.
Later, a mile offshore at Land’s End, waves were also breaking over the top of Longships Lighthouse. Reaching the cliffs at Pedn Men Dhu which protect Sennen Cove from the Atlantic, they still had enough power to cascade up to the top, about 230 feet above sea level. The amount of spray in the air was phenomenal, there was only a short window of opportunity to get a shot after cleaning my lens before it got wet again, all the time battling the gale force winds which were rattling the stability of both me, and my tripod.”
These awesome (trad meaning) pictures of shipwrecks off the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – and hundreds more – have just been purchased by the National Maritime Museum, London branch, for £122,000.
They are from the family archive of the Gibson family, assembled over 125 years and four generations, who made it their mission to record shipwrecks off the Cornish coast.
I wish I had the locations of the wrecks pictured here but the names provide interest enough – wonderful titles like Tripolitania, Minnehaha and the Mildred.
The museum says that they will be digitising the material then lending it out to museums across the South West, so by rights I’m sure there will be a Cornish airing soon.
Images reproduced on pasties & cream courtesy of Sotheby’s. www.rmg.co.uk
…shop on industrial estates.
I only realised this fact relatively recently and now my theory is gathering momentum. There’s the Frugi warehouse in Helston’s Water-ma-Trout; previously blogged Baker Tom’s cafe in Pool; there’s Ruby Junes newly opened in Hayle; and Shivermetimbers reclamation yard near Crowlas. All heart-sinkingly desolate outside, but harbouring treasure within.
A recent addition to my industrial estate hot list is Celtic Sheepskin, Cornwall’s answer to the Ugg boot, based on Treloggan industrial estate in Newquay. This (mainly online) business specialises in highest-quality sheepskin boots made sustainably with British sheepskin sourced from the last remaining UK footwear tannery.
I’ve been resisting the Ugg boot vibe for some years. God knows we’re all slouchy enough in Cornwall without wearing slouchy boots day and night. Plus, when I’d tried them on I’d found the foot support lacking. But most importantly, I’ve observed that once people own a pair, they DON’T EVER TAKE THEM OFF.
But I couldn’t keep it up, so I’ve capitulated on the grounds that Celtic’s boots have decent heel reinforcement; it’s a great Cornish company; and – frankly – who wouldn’t want their feet to be permanently wrapped in wool and supple suede?
As if to make sure you really never take them off, Celtic has now designed a new boot that is water-resistant, called the Aqualamb, pictured below.
Boots from £120, www.celticandco.co.uk
The thing about Cornwall is that it is very long. So a happening at one end can feel positively foreign to someone who lives at the other. More’s the shame, as this art event near Bude looks like something discriminating and different (‘bring your own ale‘ certainly bodes well).
It’s curated by the people at Hickory Nines, a surfy collective of writers, artists and assorted cool-sounding people, and is all about the dark side of the coast – ie the bit where there’s no Kelly’s whip *shudder*.
I asked nicely and Cai at Hickory Nines has allowed me to reproduce this mini selection of art on pasties & cream. But for the whole shebang, make your way to National Trust Stowe Barton near Bude on Friday 27th September or Saturday 28th. Full detailage on the poster below.
Friday 27th & Saturday 28th 2013, 6.30pm-9.30pm, bring your own ale (corkage applies). Free entry. Stowe Barton, Nr Bude, Cornwall, EX23 9JW. www.hickorynines.com
The Yacht Inn Swim is an ever-growing annual sea swim from Newlyn to the Jubilee Pool (next to the Yacht Inn, hence the name). It is traditional for me to talk about doing the swim every year yet never quite manage to train or make it to the start line. But it’s a classic Penzance event even for spectators and a stirring display of (other people’s) human endeavour – Penzancers of all ages can be found crossing the finish line.
I saw these pictures on flickr and loved their black and white realism, so I asked the author, Julian De Courcy, if he’d allow me to post them on pasties & cream. He kindly said yes; if you like what you see, you can view the full 2013 set here.
I enjoyed the unedited expressions on people’s dripping wet faces – smiles, grimaces, relief, exhaustion – and the refreshing lack of Cornish ‘colour’.
“I do approach this type of subject as documentary,” says the photographer, “I love the old photographs of a gone age – with as much reality as photography allows.”
Click here to see my video of the 2010 swim.
I have been snapping up cards and prints by Pirrip Press for a couple of years now – everything produced by this small print studio is so perfectly clean-lined and well-spaced, with a classy wit about it. There is a stylish economy to their work that I much covet – just the right amount of white space, never too many colours or words.
The designers in question are Alexandra Higglett and Georgina Hounsome, previously based in Penzance and still maintaining strong ties with the area. Hence their annual limited-edition poster for the Newlyn Fish Festival – a two-colour silkscreen print, this year featuring circling gulls over the harbour wall. I’m not one to romanticise seagulls (if I ever did, then it stopped dead with the theft of my Callestick Farm ice-cream on Porthmeor Beach, summer 2011) but I love this image, printed on thick mushroom-coloured paper.
It’s already a bargain at £10 and they give 20% of the money to the Fishermen’s Mission. Which is why my print has been firmly checked out of their online shop before I click publish on this! They only make 100. You can buy one here.
You can also catch these guys at the Outlaw Craft Fair (tagline: ‘not your usual craft fair’) in Penzance on 14th September.
If you live in these parts, and are into such things, you will probably have heard about a little seafood restaurant down an alleyway in Falmouth called the Wheelhouse. Despite actively shunning publicity, it is booked for months in advance and seems to get choice mentions regularly in the media as a den of great awesomeness. Last week, finally, a table had my name on it*.
When restaurants become this desirable, a whiff of pretension can creep in – a subtle revelling in the lack of available tables, or complacent service, contributing to a feeling that we should be so lucky. But despite my tentacles being out, I found the mellow, candlelit scene to be a down-to-earth pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, the Wheelhouse is certainly confident – waitresses take a seat and chat assuredly about the merits of spider crab, the size of mussels and seasonality – but thankfully it is still eager to please.
So, you might ask, what’s the biggie? Well, the story is this: Read the rest of this entry »
A good Golowan is being had by all this week, with Mazey Day as giddy and chaotic as ever yesterday. Here’s the beginning of the morning parade for those who missed Mazey or who enjoyed it so much they already want to relive it. Quay Fair Day is cranking into action today on the prom – check website below for events.
For such a quirky, low-key film – especially one that was released almost ten years ago – Sideways had a curiously long-lasting effect on me. Snippets seem to enter my consciousness at relatively frequent intervals. The bit where he drinks his most treasured wine out of a paper coffee cup in a life-defining ‘fuck it’ moment. The romance of the road trip. The search for amazing wine. And the tragi-comic intricacies of the protagonist’s mid-life crisis, but there I digress…
My latest little Sideways moment came at Read the rest of this entry »
I love nothing more than unearthing a unique little enterprise operating out of the corner of some Cornish field/barn/shed/kitchen. This month’s discovery is the UK’s first ‘gourmet’ malt vinegar, made with loving care in a nuclear bunker on the Lizard.
We all know malt vinegar, right? That brown liquid that people sprinkle indiscriminately on fish & chips, so cheap that some people use it for cleaning. Or do we?
Italian balsamic vinegar has been considered the drizzle of choice in the UK for over 20 years but according to this new business, there is an age-old English artisan product that, when made the traditional way from beer, can compete on flavour and versatility. So the people behind Lizard Ales have started producing ‘the only gourmet malt vinegar in the UK’ – made from real ale, matured for months in oak, and unfiltered and unpasteurised.
Verdict? Read the rest of this entry »
My favourite artist in Cornwall is St Just-based Jessica Cooper, whose simple lines and pared-down still lifes are confidently, deceptively simple. I have been coveting a piece for about five years, and wish I had struck then, as Jessica’s star has since ascended, deservedly, into the Cornish A-list. Meanwhile, my budget has stayed decidedly D-list.
Anyway, looking costs nothing, and fortunately Read the rest of this entry »
Exciting news has reached pasties & cream of plans to create a state-of-the-art, two-screen digital cinema and cultural space in Newlyn, in the old Turner’s fish house (pictured above). Up your street? Get thee along to the open day on Thursday to look at the plans & show your support.
With the local elections last week having taken the area’s pulse and found it somewhat faint, this is a well-timed reason to be cheerful. If planning goes smoothly, says owner Suzie Sinclair, it could be up and running by early next year.
My favourite line of the press release is the bit where it promises ‘comfy seats’ and luxurious surrounds. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Savoy Cinema in its own quirky, insufficiently heated way but the seats could never be called comfy.
Open day 2–5pm for general public – all visitors welcome. St Peter’s Church Hall, The Coombe, Newlyn.
Forget the insipid buns peddled year round at Tesmorrisains (thanks go to this exiled Penwithian on twitter for that catch-all), Cornish Hen deli’s exemplar is the real deal. 75p each or three for £2. Market Place, opposite Lloyds, Penzance.
In an ideal world, this is how I like my foraged food to look. Spot the candied alexanders stem, carrageen-set panna cotta and wild fennel shortbread in this composition.
It is said to the point of cliche, but nonetheless true, that there is something about foraging for food that seems to tap into our most primitive instincts. Just the simple action of plucking a leaf from a tangled Cornish hedge and finding it tastes like wasabi or watercress or coconut – in short, something you would normally pay for – is unfailingly thrilling.
That probably says a lot about how darkly far we’ve come from the origins of our food. Still, there’s no need to go getting too primitive about these things, and that’s what I particularly like about Caroline Davey of St Buryan wild food school Fat Hen. On her courses, it’s not just about whether the plant is edible, it’s about whether it tastes good… and not just good, but Read the rest of this entry »
A video about long-time friend of pasties & cream Paul Spooner and his ‘mechanical cartoons’. If you can’t afford one of his automata, you could always buy yourself a bar of Eden Project chocolate, which is illustrated by Paul with the story of chocolate. The sea salt one, in particular, has a nice briny kick.
Here is my picturebook from a day out at Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, a wondrous garden carved out of a valley overlooking Mount’s Bay, dotted with modern art installations, tropical vegetation and artily placed viewing platforms. It pleased me that it’s not so arty as to neglect the traditional Cornish harbinger of spring: the humble daff. You can read more on the story of Tremenheere in ‘The tropic of Cornwall: How a nondescript field was turned into an unexpected sculpture park’ in the Independent.
The on-site Lime Tree is my Cornish cafe crush of the year, of which more soon.
Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, £6.50 entrance, or free for members, nr Gulval. 01736 448 089, TR20 8YL www.tremenheere.co.uk
Hurrah, the little vintage caravan on the prom lives on, this year with new owners (one of which is none other than knitted freak lady Katie Lennon of Heyday) and under a cute new name, Little Wonder.
As well as the arrival of Starry-Gazy Cupcakes on the menu, the other news is that it’s not waiting till the official ‘season’ to trundle on to the prom – it’s open weekends from now. Yes, that’s correct, it is February and there is no cover – just how I like it. A hot cup of tea and a chill in the air… makes me feel like I’m camping.
Views across Mount’s Bay, yours for £1.50 for a cuppa, £3 with cupcake. Naturally, I dream about them serving wine… We so badly need somewhere nice outdoors for a sundowner* in this town.
*amongst other things
It also sells cards by the wonderful local design & print studio Pirrip Press.
More pics here Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks go to my chief Cornish correspondent in the capital and my Cornish-by-conviction friend Chris for alerting me to the fact that Penlee House Gallery‘s walls must be looking a little bare at the moment, thanks to a major retrospective exhibition of Cornish art currently showing at Two Temple Place in London.
What with it being 308 miles away – and by First Great Western’s calculations a £110 journey – I haven’t yet been. But I can see from the reviews that it has some winners from the Newlyn School – paintings that I never get bored of. One of them is ‘A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’, pictured above, by Stanhope A Forbes, dated 1885. This sort of industrious beachside scene might be a thing of the past but the bearded guy would not look at all out of place nipping into the Swordy for a pint of something murky of a Friday.
I have to admit that for me there is something slightly jarring, or rather confusing, about the title of the exhibition – Amongst Heroes – but this is clearly a fine slice of Cornish art in a wonderful building. Admission is free, and there is an extensive roster of Cornwall-related activities. Gedon.
‘Amongst Heroes: the artist in working Cornwall’
Two Temple Place, 26 January – 14 April 2013
2 Temple Pl London, WC2R 3BD
In partnership with the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Exhibition Opening Times: Monday, Thursday – Saturday: 10.00 – 16.30. Wednesday Late: 10.00 – 21.00. Sunday: 11.00 – 16.30, Closed on Thursdays
The guys at Heyday put on these vintage and handmade markets every now and again – I love them. There’s one today until 4pm downstairs at the Acorn. I came back with some knitted freaks, a pack of vintage flower cigarette cards, handmade cards, a starey-gazy cupcake (nice) and a bon bec bag by Alexandra Higlett.
On a stranger note, has anyone noticed how the Acorn sign has grown some sort of seaweedy mushrooms?!
Check out how moody and cool the Jubilee Pool is looking in its close-up in The xx new video Chained, from the album Coexist, out now. Very taken with Penzance’s handsome lido, they were apparently. The underwater shots were filmed subsequently in a water tank. Ha! Don’t blame them – tis chilly in there.
Cornish outdoor clothing brand Finisterre has opened a shop! It’s aptly located on a wind-battered Cornish headland, next to their Wheal Kitty workshops and HQ of Surfers Against Sewage. Anyway, I just bought the most expensive hat of my life there – the merino Cable Beanie pictured above. Fortunately, after the initial layout, it has turned out to be the sort of hat that manages to turbo-heat your whole body. Pure wool yet zero itch, and ample ear coverage. Good sale rail at the shop too, by the way.
Cable Beanie, Finisterre, £30. www.finisterreuk.com
Ooo, there’s a new bar opened next to Untitled called the Cellar Door – seems to be going for the Hispanic arty dive bar vibe. It’s a curious, pared down place with exposed brick, £3 house red served in beaker glasses, chalked up pinchos (£2 each) – even Orishas and Jarabe de Palo on the stereo. No credit cards, limited opening hours and just a few old church pews for seats. Me gusta!
Well, as burger fortune would have it, Blas – intent on reinventing the maligned burger van – has hit the road this summer with ‘Blas Street’, a burger van ‘for people who give a damn’. I snapped one up yesterday on the prom at Quay Fair Day and can confirm that the formula travels exceedingly well – Cornish freerange beef, seeded bun, crispy salad. Look out for the Blas ladies at festivals and beachside carparks this summer.
£5 for a classic burger, add 50p for Davidstow Cheddar. http://blasburgerworks.co.uk/
Hope’s Sticky Cinnamon & Pecan Bun. One big fresh bun topped with ultra buttered caramelised pecans – £1. The regulars were queuing up this morning, and her website says they are ‘famous’, so looks like I was the last to know.
Its only rival in the £1 local treat category as far as I can tell is a Jelbert’s ice-cream – though a flake will push you over the threshold.
Available at Read the rest of this entry »
‘Heartlands’, in case you hadn’t heard, ‘is the fruition of a long held ambition in the community to redevelop the Pool area of West Cornwall which was left largely untouched following the demise of the tin mining industry and final closure of the mines in 1998, after nearly 400 years of activity.’ And… it is finally open.
I went at the weekend but it was only a quick tour so I didn’t really have time to get to the ‘heart’ of the matter. All the same, here are some first pics from this freshly opened ‘cultural playground’ in Pool, between Redruth and Camborne.
As you can see it’s a slick-looking and multifaceted new ‘zone’ encompassing an adventure playground for kids (hundreds of delighted squeals), the Red River Cafe (sensitively designed, reasonably priced, standard cafe fare), a shop (a rather curious mix but did at least contain Hager Vor hoodies and Natalie Bonney’s lovely ceramics), workshops and an exhibition centre, plus – most importantly – the carefully restored mining remnants and buildings that form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As per, Cornwall Council couldn’t resist slapping a pay & display car park on something trumpeted as a free attraction for the community. Still, that won’t stop most locals parking for free on one of the many surrounding streets of the industrial estate instead. Baker Tom’s little oasis in the desert is also just round the corner – weekdays only, mind.