The Saga of the Newlyn School Legacy.

Had a call from Alex Wade.  Alex is a writer and freelance journalist who lives near Sennen Cove – you might know him from his writings on art in Cornwall Today.   He is preparing an article for Saga Magazine (aimed for the over 50’s) about The Newlyn School of Art.  The proprietor, Henry Garfit, asked me if I would like to give them an interview (sadly I meet the demographic) – from a ‘student’ perspective.  I was happy to oblige.

a TAap course.  (see Poster-Making Day)
a TAap course. (see Poster-Making Day)

The Newlyn School of Art is not to be confused with the Newlyn Society of Artists or the renowned Newlyn School‘ and Lamorna Group artists (1880-1930) represented in Penlee House’s collections, which feature artists such as Stanhope Forbes, Walter Langley, Henry Scott Tuke or Dame Laura Knight, and the like.  The School that Henry set up a couple of years ago with help from Arts Council funding, perpetuates the legacy of the famous art colony in the now iconic harbour town of Newlyn, the original home for many of these artists.

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Having moved into the old school buildings at the top of Chywoone Hill, the newly formed School of Art now “provides inspiring art courses in painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery and printmaking taught by many of the best known artists working in Cornwall today“.  The building also accommodates several studio spaces for practising artists and has become a thriving hub of artistic activity.

I was booked onto the 2 day course, Colour & Abstraction run by Gareth Edwards, an engaging and dynamic teacher.  (see his current exhibition at the Millennium Gallery, St.Ives).

Briefly, the intensive weekend went something like this:

  • Day one:     Differences in the Language of Painting (mark-making).

About abstraction, Gareth argues that a painting of a cow in the field is more abstract than a blue square on a canvas because the blue square is not pretending to be anything other than a blue square painted on canvas.  He quotes Andre Derain, (French Fauvist painter, 1880-1954) who defines abstraction as “a series of marks and coloured patches on a flat surface“.

AM.  We started off with some pre-cognitive mark making exercises, like ‘improvised jazz’ with no considerations for composition allowed.  (Difficult)  An attempt to make each section different from the other and to differentiate between mark making and pattern.

I couldn’t resist using collage in an attempt to find a different way of beginning a work. (Gareth said no one had done that before!). I then turned it upside down and worked on it again.
recognising a certain trope emerging with a nod  towards St. Ives School of Painters. (unintentional)
recognising a certain St. Ives School trope. (unintentional)

PM.  Exercise One:  Process Painting (as mechanical / ‘masculine’)


The process I chose was holding 4 loaded brushes together which were repeatedly swept across the surface in a waving motion

Exercise Two:  Grids (versus narrative)

I chose multi grids of circles, squares and rectangles.  (detail)
I chose multi grids of circles, squares and rectangles in a bit of a mash-up. (detail)

Exercise Three: Edges (as fictive spaces)

A definite nod to Cy Twombly.
A conscious nod to Cy Twombly.  An attempt for minimal mark making.
  • Day two:     Differences in the Language of Colour (where the ‘stabilizers from day one come off!’).  As a former designer who worked with colour in a professional capacity, Gareth has a keen sense for colour and talked about its theories and practices.

am. exercise:  Working with a golden section grid format, (‘the tuning fork of the universe’) we experimented with harmonies and temperatures of different colours in close proximity to one another.

I particularly like the way you can build up layers of colour and by scraping back some of the top layers, underlying colours can ‘peek’ through creating a more textural, 3D effect.

pm. exercise:  Working in a larger format, it was ‘free-flow’ time designed to bring together all the elements we had been experiencing over the two days.   We were offered a selection of key ‘triggers’ to choose from:







wilder shores of lurve (sic)

peace / conflict.

I chose gravity and movement (detail)

Represented by a good mixture of ages and abilities, this course was illuminating and inspiring, as I am sure they all are.   It showed me a completely different way of thinking about abstraction to the way I normally work (gestural, intuitive).  You might think I have come away even more schizophrenic than before but it has in effect served to highlight how I don’t work!  One thing I will try to do in the future is slow down my process and allow more time for reflection between marks made before attacking my work like a demented chicken.  More slow burn required, more pared down, minimal mark making.  The concluding message for me is that I must calm my mind like still water so that it can more easily reflect what is really going on.

A big thank you to Gareth for his generosity of spirit and enduring patience!  (And thanks also to David for looking after my dogs).  I applaud what Henry is doing with the school and as if that is not enough, his latest venture is the opening of a new gallery, The Bucca (formerly Badcocks in Newlyn Coome opposite the old fish market) and now runs it jointly with artist and curator, Jesse Leroy Smith.

Keep an eye out for the article in Saga.  Hope it provides the Newlyn School of Art with plenty more willing students – zimmer frames and all!