Art and Memories in St Ives
The last time I was in St Ives was 1967. Eric Sykes's silent comedy THE PLANK was on first-release in the local cinema. In the museum I dropped big copper pennies into the 'What the Butler Saw' machine and watched housemaids undress.
I'd saved up my pennies for weeks in an old cigar box, and had blown them all in the penny arcade within an hour of arriving. Somehow I got enough money together again to buy my older sister Michelle a gonk.
Our family was staying in the Carbis Bay Hotel. For sixpence Michelle and I could take the scenic branch line for one stop, or try and race it on the pedestrian footpath above.
I couldn't wait to get away from this most beautiful Carbis Bay in the end. The hotel ran children's events. My little sister Elizabeth was 3, I was 10. We were the last two left in musical chairs. The hotel manager held her hand as we ran round and around. The music stopped. I was nearest to the chair. I made my decision. I would sit in it but let her have the prize. It seemed the most honest thing to do. Some laughed, but everyone was shocked. The prize was automatically given to Elizabeth without reference to me. I felt utterly ashamed.
I guess I'm over it at last. It was good to be back. As with all towns, St Ives is now too clogged with traffic but one main shopping street is for pedestrians and the streets and alleyways cut across each other at cute angles.
The Tate Gallery is new to the town since I was there. The landlady at our B&B told me how the local artists are unhappy with their hanging policy. 'Because they aren't hung there?' I asked, and was right in one.
It's understandable. New galleries tend to ace it as buildings but their art collections disappoint (I'm thinking of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, the Getty in LA, and to some lesser extent the new gallery in Stromness though there the building is so fine and the art is catching up). Much of the Tate is taken up with Adam Chodzko's new work, rooms full of his installations. the St Ives schools of painters are still there, but somewhat marginalized and I came away with no sense of what's ticking in Cornish art now.
Still, they have the most important element ... a new cafe resplendent on its top floor.
And the gallery must bring new art lovers to the town. We went in to the delightfully fresh Wills Lane Gallery, and came out with a small Maggi Hambling oil, one of her Waves series. I've been following Maggi Hambling's work for more than twenty years and never presumed that I might one day live with one. It's a joy to have her splash upon our wall.