Cornwall, old and new

parisdiaArt, Flowers and gardens6 Comments

St Levan church in Porthcurno is magical

St Levan church in Porthcurno is up from th Minack theatre and the beach

I have been going to Cornwall for 25 years and every time my heart pounds with excitement as I drive from Exeter airport to Penzance and Land’s End. This year was full of surprises with a new sculpture garden in Gulval and more delicious trendy cafés, which took over from the Tate St Ives.

St Michael's mount at sunset

St Michael’s Mount at sunset: it is still lived in by the St Aubyn family

The two and a half hour drive to Land’s end is a short conquest of the holy Grail. Just enough to anticipate the cream teas with scones that await us in Bosistow farm or to check the changing skies as we progress towards the further western part of the British world in Daphné du Maurier and Mary Wesley’s world.

A view from my window at Bosistow farm near Land's end, crops and cows by the sea

A view from my window at Bosistow farm near Land’s end, crops and cows by the sea

This time, I missed St Ives where the Tate gallery is closed, but loved the Newlyn art gallery where Pakistani artist, Imran Qureishi was showing his beautiful Mughal inspired drawings and a film called « Breathing ». Rachel Nicholson (daughter of Ben) was showing (and selling) her miniature paintings there which are so typically cornish.

At Newlyn art gallery a spectacular café

At Newlyn art gallery a trendy café with spectacular views

At Penlee House in Penzance, where we had  crab sandwiches for lunch on a rainy day, « Compass’d by the inviolate sea », was a surprisingly good show of local marine paintings including an 1811 Turner of St Michael’s Mount and Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), my absolute favorite painter who inspired Ben Nicholson with his naive boats and views of Cornwall. Interestingly enough, Turner was sent to Cornwall when the Napoleonic wars prevented Brits to travel to the continent. He was asked to do etchings of the English Riviera, to encourage local tourism…

Kishio Suga, Untitled, a bamboo poles cage

Kishio Suga, Untitled, a bamboo poles cage

But what was most impressive, is the new sculpture garden opened last year by present owner Dr. Neil Armstrong, in Gulval near Penzance. Tremenheere used to be owned by the monks of St Michael’s Mount in the Middle ages. It was then acquired by the Tremenheere family who owned it for 600 years. Seymour, the last owner is responsible for planting holly, chestnut, beech and oaks around 1830. The 20 acre piece of land is south facing and very steep, so bring your hiking boots !

New York artist Michelle Jaffé at work taping sound in James Turrell's installation

New York artist Michelle Jaffé at work taping sound in James Turrell’s installation

Darren Hawke's slate sculpture won the Chelsea Flower show Eco prize

Darren Hawke’s slate sculpture won the Chelsea Flower show Eco prize

I was excited to discover the excellent artwork by David Nash, Richard Long and James Turrell as well as the most magnificent garden with strong light and dark contrasts.

The garden created in 1830 is as important as the sculptures

The garden created in 1830 is as important as the sculptures it inspired

Banana trees and palm trees (thanks to the gulf stream) grow side by side with rhododendrons and gunnera. It is a magical world that you enter through a little hut and path in a dark forest. A few hundred yards further a large open meadow exposes its treasures. On the very top and after seeing Kishio Suga bamboo poles and Peter Randall-Page sculpture, you discover Richard Long’s vegetal line that aims at the sea.

Richard Long's "Tremenheere Line" is made of South African restio, Boloskion tetraphylllum. It points to the spectacular views from the very top of the garden and faces south

Richard Long’s “Tremenheere Line” is made of South African restio, Boloskion tetraphylllum. It points to the spectacular views from the very top of the garden and faces south

But of course, the height of the excitement is in James Turrell’s skyspace from which you look at the sky. And as opposed to Texan skies at the Nasher sculpture center where I saw my first Turrell “sky”, Cornish skies change every second so the flow of clouds can give you sea sickness !  I met charming New York artist, Michelle Jaffé who was taping sounds from this very special room.IMG_1717

I was lucky to be there on a day when Aqua Oscura was open : it is a water container, which you penetrate in the dark, holding the walls.

Once you have sat for 10 minutes, your eyes are accustomed to the obscurity and you start seeing the reflection from the outside world as devised by James Turrell who was fascinated by this building when he first visited the garden with its owner Doctor Neil Armstrong. This experience reminded me of the Turrell’s piece in Naoshima, Japan, in a little fisherman’s house.

Davis Nash, "Black Mound", charred oak shapes

Davis Nash, “Black Mound”, charred oak shapes

I finished the visit by bumping into London artist, Rose Cecil, who lives in Mousehole. She did not share my crab cake in the restaurant but told me she was starting to write a Memoir and singing in the local choir. I wish she would return to sculpture and painting.

Even simple benches are works of art

Even simple benches are works of art

But none of this would have been possible if my dear friend Rebecca Fraser had not invited me again and again to discover Land’s End. She is putting on the last touch to her book, “The Mayflower, the story of the Winslow family”, which will be published by St Martin in 2017. A work to watch.

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6 Comments on “Cornwall, old and new”

  1. How lovely! Are you the woman who mentioned seeing the Turrell at the Nasher in Dallas?

    Many thanks for the photo and mention.

    Please add me to your list of readers. Good for you doing your blog.

    Would you like me to add you to my mailing list or is that too much?

    All my best,
    Michelle Jaffé

  2. How lovely, Laure.! I felt I was there with you and Rebecca with your vivid and pasionate description of your traditional trip to Land’s End. Dying to see the new Sculpture Garden at Gulval !

  3. Laure – brilliant! Cornwall is where our hearts are and, as you know, specifically St. Mawes. We were there in June when it was like the Mediterranean and the sea was a mill pond. We are off again in September with James, Lizzie and Joe if you’d like another injection!!

  4. Laure–Your descriptions and beautiful photographs (your talents grow with each blog!) of your sally through Cornwall was a joyous and transformative plum to read and imagine seeing one day. Moving skies, crab sandwiches, St. Michael’s Mount. The lush, pre-historic sensation of the 19th c. Tremenheere gardens leading to the 21st c. sculpture gardens, the beautiful “Tremenheere Line & James Turell’s fabulous AQUA OSCURA–an underground Camera Obscura! The Sound Artist, Michelle Jaffé ; great article by Alex Marshall last week in the NYTimes:
    Which brought me to my holy grail: the photo from your room at Bosistow Farm–It reminded me of a cross between an Edward Hopper and an Andrew Wyeth: Laure’s World.

  5. Yes, Laure’s world! Your beautiful photos capture such brooding images. The mammoth gunnera and grabbing ferns. The dark mysteries of “Black Mound”. One can feel the ancients present and waiting…

  6. Wouahh, c’est splendide Laure! Un peu surréaliste et totalement magique. Ça donne vraiment envie d’y aller. Alexandre

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