Arts: On the right wavelength?

A collaborative project in west Cornwall has brought together a number of artists to respond to the theme of 'light'. But how relevant is it to the history of the area, asks Richard Ingleby

The Penwith peninsular, the finger of land that stretches westwards into the Atlantic at the south-western edge of England, has been popular with artists for well over 100 years. And it still is with countless painters and sculptors who work in and around Newlyn and St Ives, drawn there, they say, by the quality of light. It's a familiar phrase that makes an appropriate theme for "a collaborative visual arts event" between the Tate St Ives, Newlyn Art Gallery and the International Institute of Visual Arts, whose resources have been gathered together by St Ives International, a new company formed to co-ordinate a series of summer exhibitions.

The mood of the event, however, is not quite what you'd expect from west Cornwall. A Quality of Light is neither concerned with local artists nor with the region's art-historical past, nor (confusingly) is it really anything to do with the clear and even light that makes this bit of coastline so distinctive. Instead, 14 artists have been invited from as far afield as Croatia and the Philippines to "respond to the theme of light [in its broadest sense] through painting, sculpture, installations, new technologies and the medium of light itself".

For travellers by train, the experience begins at Penzance station where Peter Freeman, one of just two local artists involved in the project, has installed Light at the End of the Tunnel - a giant neon in the shape of a blue light bulb hung high up the station wall. It's a cheerful opening but, on the evidence here, his work has little or nothing to do with where he lives.

Nor, it seems, has the locality had much effect on Mona Hatoum, one of the visitors whose work is on show a few miles down the road at Newlyn. Current Disturbance, as she calls her cage of electrical wire and flickering bulbs, was commissioned especially for A Quality of Light, but it looks exactly as it would if she'd made it for London, New York or Berlin. It's an impressive piece, disorientating and a little unsettling, by an artist with a growing international reputation, but it's hard to see anything in it that relates to this part of the world.

The opposite is true at Bottalack, 10 miles west of St Ives, where David Kemp, the other local artist, has built a museum to house his relics of a fictional "Late Iron Age Sunset Cult". He calls it "The Art of Darkness" punningly setting the mood for a kind of whimsical archaeology based on the artefacts that he makes from rubbish found among the abandoned tin mines that litter this stretch of coast. It's very funny, a bit mad and should be a huge success with holiday makers who stray unwittingly from the Cornish coast path and find themselves in the midst of Kemp's bizarre creation.

A more serious sort of local history is at the root of Glen Onwin's installation, Blood of the Pelican, a mile or so further west at Geevor Mine. These days, the mine is a museum and Onwin's pools of coloured pigment stirred by boiler-suited workers (which have to be experienced to be understood) will, for the duration of the summer, become a part of the guided tour - a symbolic and deeply resonant reminder of the place's recent past.

Onwin's is probably the most substantial work in the whole event but the most inspiring, I think, are three small installations that, at a glance, might seem the least significant. Carol Robertson, Roger Ackling and James Hugonin are all exhibiting at the Tate St Ives but, additionally, they have each placed works in sites around the town that lend themselves to the sort of quiet contemplation that each piece demands.

Robertson has made a single abstract painting for the parish church next to the harbour: two yellow rings against a pale yellow ground; a meditation, she says, on the lives of two friends who died on the same day, in unrelated circumstances, shortly before she began work on the project. It hangs, unframed and unannounced, on a damp-stained side wall. It's a wonderful painting, surprisingly so for something so modest, with an understated and very appropriate presence.

The quiet calm of the location, undoubtedly, helps to instill a special mood, as does the Fishermen's Chapel for Ackling and the tiny Island Chapel on the hill overlooking Porthmeor Beach for Hugonin. Of the three, Hugonin's delicate abstracts make the best transition into the gallery, where four of his paintings share a room with Barbara Hepworth's Pelagos. It is an effective and rather beautiful combination, meditative and almost monastic, which clarifies the subtle rhythms that are at work behind Hugonin's rows of minute coloured marks. They are hypnotic pictures, seemingly alive and yet pointedly still, which require and repay slow absorption. I have never seen his work looking so good, but just how such quiet qualities will stand up to the bustle of the gallery in high summer remains to be seen.

I have mentioned seven artists - there are seven others in the official line up (including a fine room of Bridget Riley at the Tate), not to mention all the local painters and sculptors who are opening their studios on the back of the event. It's an ambitious project, too disparate and too far from the track of its intended theme to be entirely convincing, but worth the journey west none the less. There will be something here to touch the imaginations of most of west Cornwall's summer visitors. It deserves to be a successn

The Tate Gallery St Ives, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives (01736 796543); Newlyn Art Gallery, New Rood, Newlyn (01736 331578) and various locations around the Penwith Peninsular throughout the summer. To 2 Nov

Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map