On 13 October, 20 Art and Photography students headed off for a residential weekend in St Ives, Cornwall. It was an action-packed weekend covering a wide range of gallery visits and practical activities. On arrival, first stop was St Michael’s Mount, a chance to get some fresh air and stretch the legs – and take photographs, obviously – prior to a busy evening of art activities. These post-dinner activities hinged on 4 key characters – Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon, Alfred Wallis, and Rowena Cade – their various stories unfolding alongside a range of group tasks, all in support of the visits that lay ahead. Chaos ensued: Pasty Brainstorms, Plasticine sculptures on plinths, cardboard theatre-sets, and then – finally – some very amateur dramatics, with lots of laughs.
Saturday morning began with an early wander around Newlyn Harbour and an opportunity for some documentary work with cameras, sketchbooks and a drone, as is Year 11 Sam’s preference.
3 gallery visits then followed in quick succession: Newlyn Art Gallery, for the first part of the split-site Robyn Denny
exhibition. An original Young British Artist busily shaking the London art scene up in the 1950s, under the influence of Abstract Expressionism.
In contrast to this was our visit to Penlee House Gallery and Museum, home to a great collection of the Newlyn School artists, and their realist-inspired paintings of very local – and often very tough – lives in this close-knit fishing community of Newlyn.
Our third visit of the morning was to The Exchange, Penzance for the second part of the Robyn Denny exhibition. Armed with a roll of paper and some coloured electrical tape, a playful gallery workshop ensued with students collaborating on a large scale work in respect of Denny’s interests.
No hanging about, we jumped on to the fun-bus for a jaunt to the Minack Theatre
, Lands End – Rowena Cade’s awe-inspiring build, set upon the cliff-face. It is the perfect place to sit and draw. A quick return to the hostel gave everyone a chance to freshen up prior to our posh dinner out (plates, cutlery, everything). And then, overly-fed, we headed back and handed over to Year 13 Sophie, talented guitarist, who finished off a lovely relaxing evening with style and plenty of song.
Day 2, Sunday, was spent in St Ives. We arrived early for a spot of photography and sketching prior to visiting the Barbara Hepworth Gardens and Museum. This is such a beautiful and poignant place to visit. The space in which she worked (and died accidentally, in a fire) still resonates with her presence.
Hepworth is an all-out inspiration, and when you have a majority of girls in your class (or on a trip) she is an important figure for exposing and re-addressing the gender imbalance that art-histories can spin.
With Hepworth still in mind, it was fitting – deliberate, even – that female British sculptor Rebecca Warren was selected to exhibit at the newly opened Tate St Ives. The re-hanging of the St Ives School alongside their European contemporaries is something very special. Here is a story from art history that all art students should know – stories, actually, heaps of them – rich and inspiring, of local, national and international significance. Students were given a range of tasks to complete within, and beyond, the galleries. These included taking portraits of locals and conducting interviews and audio recordings for a future installation. One of the delights of a visit to St Ives is how easy it is to encounter local artists, many of whom can recall first-hand experiences with familiar St Ives School figures.
Following Tate St Ives we headed off to confront the 2-hour Life Drawing class at St Ives School of Painting,
a prospect that had been haunting photography students for weeks. Thankfully both tutor and life model had a good sense of humour. Nervous chuckles and all, it really was an enjoyable session, experimenting with a wide range of drawing techniques in a positive and supportive environment. Even Kev the coach driver joined in. After a late dinner back at the hostel, we convened for a last night of group activities, with teams competing with various tasks, of varying levels of absurdity, from customising wooden spoons to balloon races.
Day 3, Post-breakfast, we packed up the coach and headed off to the Eden Project.
This was our final stop, conveniently breaking up the coach journey home. Here we had a relaxing couple of hours to simply wander and photograph within the Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes. And then it was time to head back to Bournemouth. Everyone safe, sketchbooks full of drawings, cameras full of photographs; new friendships made, new understandings of art and photography instilled. And most importantly, a growing sense that we’re all on this creative adventure together, wherever it might next lead; the great benefits of residential trips and fieldwork should never be underestimated.