Art of Gathering : September 2019



Art of Gathering is a multi-disciplinary exhibition that brings together the work of eight artists and contemporary craft makers working in diverse mediums. Through their individual making processes the artists forge a deep connection to the landscape and share a respect for the materials they work with, gathered, collected and sourced from the land. From Irish basketmaker, Joe Hogan living in the wild ancient landscape of Co Galway and ceramicist, Patricia Shone’s workshop on the beautiful remote Isle of Skye in Scotland to London based collective Forest and Found and metalsmith Stuart Cairn’s urban studio in Belfast. The exhibition also includes paintings and photographs by local Cornish based painters Michael Porter and Francesca Owen.


A specially commissioned installation titled, Fluent, by basketmaker, Annemarie O’Sullivan will be sited in the historic fishing cellar at Porthmeor Studios where fishing nets are still set by hand today. Connecting to both the past and the present, the sculptural installation marks a shift away from the domestic scale of functional vernacular baskets to create a contemporary translation of traditional basketmaking, once a vital trade and commodity in the fishing industry in St Ives. To make the structural framework Annemarie employs weaving techniques combined with the technology of modern materials and contemporary methods of construction using machine cut bands of ash wood, steamed and finger jointed secured with a hand binding method. Imitating the undulating movement of drift fishing nets, the energy of the open weave is free and yet contained, like a drawing falling free form to define the space.


Living and working from her Sussex based workshop Annemarie cultivates and harvests her own willow beds bringing her a deeper sense of belonging to the land and a visceral sense of joy at working with a sustainable material she has grown and processed by hand. It is also about hard graft and long-term commitment, working in rhythm with the seasons. Joe Hogan has worked as a basketmaker for over 35 years at Loch na Fooey in the west of Ireland. There is a practical, down to earth, pragmatic and economic leveller to planting, growing and harvesting materials for use that is inseparable from his daily life. Poetry is another source of inspiration in his work. ‘The world around us,’ he says, ‘presents us with wonders everyday.’ In recent years he has become increasingly interested in making artistic baskets prompted by a desire to develop his relationship with the natural environment that surrounds him incorporating gathered wild materials with the cultivated willow into his sculptural work.


Reinventing the tradition of Cornish landscape painting, artist, Michael Porter paints highly innovative paintings that focus on detailed observations of natural ephemera that include found natural objects like seaweed, rocks and feathers collected from the shoreline around his Newlyn studio. His imagery is literally taken from under our feet, sods and clumps of dug earth, tangled roots and decaying leaves are the inspiration for his exquisite, minutely observed Dirt series. Painter, Francesca Owen is a specialist in raw pigments and plant-based dyes using minerals and oxides from abandoned mine waste to make her rich earthy palette of colour. She collects her raw materials from the scarred industrial landscape along the coastal paths of West Penwith including iron oxide from the area around Geevor mine, white china clay from Leswidden clay pit, yellow ochre from the cliffs at Porthtowan Bay and a metallic grey from St Day.


Working alongside one another in a creative partnership and influenced by their strong and complementary relationship to a sense of place, Abigail Booth and Max Bainbridge tread the line between art and craft. Based in the city they fluctuate between the urban and the rural to produce sculptural and wall-based works that look at landscape as a site of exchange to cross the boundaries of contemporary art practices and the traditions of craftsmanship. Abigail’s large, abstract textile piece made for the Art of Gathering incorporates hand stitching and applique. It is painted with dyes made from ground mussel shells collected on Porthmeor Beach during a research trip to St Ives. Max’s sculptural wood-turned forms are hewn from locally sourced Cornish Holm Oak.


To be immersed in the landscape is also integral to the arts practice of these artists and makers. The physical act of walking, thinking, drawing and observing the natural environment are all absorbed through writing, philosophy and an engagement in the land, referencing the changing weather, tides and ancient pathways through the stories they tell. Stuart Cairns works as a silversmith and applied artist combining natural materials and man-made found objects alongside precious metals. He sees his studio practice as “not just about the landscape, but the experience of being within it, of being part of it.’ He creates artefacts in the tradition of domestic tools, intriguing vessels or utensils, that have a reference to the experience of being human. The human connection and impact to landscape is also reflected in Patricia Shone’s hand built ceramic vessels. Her textural forms are influenced by the elemental landscape, mountains and coast that surround her studio on the Isle of Skye. She describes how the erosion of the hills by forces of climate and human intervention inform her work. And how patterns of the past are drawn across the surfaces of her clay forms.

Throughout the exhibition there is a shaping physical and emotional connection made to celebrating landscape through poetry, personal enquiry and philosophy as well as the idea of a journey and sense of ritual rooted in heritage; the living environment becomes an extension of the studio. The practical engagement and application of materials and skills is explored through traditional techniques and contemporary art practices where the hedgerow, shore, woodland and moor are all inspiring sites and places of exchange.

Art of Gathering 2019
Curator Sarah Frangleton

The exhibition runs from 14th September to 12th October
Click here to see the exhibition on the website. Click here to see the Online Catalogue which also contains details of supporting activities in St. Ives