This exhibition brings together the work of two very different artists, who nonetheless share an essential link to British Modernism and the history of painting in St Ives.
Trevor Bell’s (1930 –2017) career as one of our most important abstract artists begins and ends in West Cornwall. His relocation from the north of England to St Ives in 1955, at the suggestion of his friend and mentor Terry Frost, marked the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to exploring the formal properties of painting. Pictorial space and an emotive, sometimes spiritual use of colour defines his work, from his monumental canvases to his works on paper. Painting and teaching for many years in the UK, Italy and America, and travelling widely, he ultimately returned to West Cornwall, where in 2004 he was given a solo exhibition at Tate St Ives, and where he continued to paint until his death in 2017.
Liz Hough similarly studied and began her career in the north of England, but came to St Ives to pursue her career as an artist and dedicate herself to the subjective principals of Modern British painting. More strongly connected to figuration, but equally devoted to colour and the picture plane, she continues a lineage that has defined abstract painting in St Ives since the last century, and is inspired in particular by the paintings of Peter Lanyon. Like Bell, Hough has variously studied, worked, held residencies and taught painting in the UK, America and her beloved Italy, where she studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Perugia, and where she continues to paint and teach regularly.
Both their stories have taken the powerful influence of art in St Ives to far-flung places, translated, for example, into the hot colours of Bell’s highly abstracted, Indian inspired works on paper, or the rich landscape colours that define both Hough’s Italian paintings and her Cornwall inspired works. Both Hough and Bell have also spent their careers teaching and sharing their knowledge and passion for abstraction with a new generation of artists and can be seen as two distinct but important painters in the ongoing story of painting and St Ives.
Liz Hough is respected as a painter of abstracted landscapes. This new work is a collection of personal reflections on time spent living and working in her hometown of St Ives, and includes subjects such as Harbour and Boats, Smeaton’s Pier, Norway Square – What’s The Weather Like? and Trencrom Hill.
Hough studied Fine Art at Manchester Polytechnic, achieved a post-graduate Diploma in Painting at the Royal Academy Schools in London, and later studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Perugia, Italy. Regarded as an artist in the Modern British style, her paintings are a continuation of work that rejects literal representation, taking instead a subjective approach to the visual experience of landscape. Her work responds to the rugged landscape of West Cornwall, where she lives, and the more pastoral landscape of Italy, which she visits regularly. ‘Place’ is of central importance to her paintings, which are composed in oil, acrylic, collage and painted papers, and rendered in a harmonious palette of both vibrant and low key colours. Using shapes abstracted from nature, she highlights simple forms and patterns in the landscape, arranging them into fragmented but perfectly balanced compositions that say much more about the spirit, energy, scale and texture of these locations than any purely figurative painting could achieve. The works of Peter Lanyon have been a particular influence, as seen in her tribute After West Penwith, of which Hough says “You must try and embrace the ghosts of the past, while still making works about your own stories and connections with the landscape and people. After twenty years here, I am still finding new places and events to talk about.”
Hough exhibits regularly in the UK and Europe. She has undertaken residencies at Casa Manilva, Spain, and at Louisiana State University, America, and has created commissions for Fine Art Consultancy London and St Michael’s Chapel, Cordigliano, Italy. During her career she has received numerous awards including the Daler-Rowney Award at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the Leverhulme Trust Scholarship, the Creswick Prize for Landscape Painting and the Landseer Scholarship Prize for Compositional Studies in Oils. Her paintings are held in private collections including the Bank of China Collection and the TSB Collection.