Friday, March 20, 2015

a day of threes

A day of threes: three galleries, three beaches, three meals, three hours of trekking (compare, please: first day had a five hour hike, second day's was four hours; there is a trend!).

But let's start with breakfast. You know how much I believe in a good first push forward.

I take a break from my usual Scottish and go for the porridge. I'm a sucker for good porridge, as you can surely tell from my farmette breakfasts. And my guest house does all cooked breakfasts very, very well.


It is a beautiful morning! A view this time from my window toward town:


It begs for a hike! But, I have neglected the art world of St. Ives and so I must make room for it today. You cannot hope to understand this place without digging a little into its ties to the artistic communities -- past and present. And in fact, my hosts arranged for me to join a private showing of the home, studio and paintings of Sandra Blow, who lived here in the last years of her life.

Of course, I'd never heard of her. If you haven't either, I've done my homework for you: she was an abstract painter and she used scraps of cheap material to complete collages on her rather large canvases. She died unfortunately just before the market crashed in 08 and here's another unfortunate aspect -- at least from the perspective of her estate: her remaining canvases are so huge (10' by 10') that there aren't many collectors willing to take them in.

I walk up to her former studio and home, enjoying the morning sunshine. Ah, here we go again: another mom and grandma out for a stroll with their little one, with a totally charming gesture of grandma holding the girl's hand:


Alright, I'm at the Blow home and Jon, the estate executor is here to show us around. I see right away that the man and woman who are the primary viewers know their stuff!


He is a London pub owner (with art!), but his dad is a major collector (he emphasized the word "major" several times). I almost asked if his dad was, by chance, very old and if there are siblings to consider, as we were all rather jocular by then, but I held back. He may have found this to be tactless, even with allowances for British humor and sensibilities.

Sandra Blow canvases aren't off the wall pricey -- yet. The most expensive painting sold for 100,000 pounds, but everyone admits (me too! why not be agreeable and feign a knowledge I do not have?) that the art market is finicky and peculiar. In her life, Blow was ranked alongside the likes of Ben Nicholson (we're asked -- you know Nicholson of course? and they nod and so I nod as well, because what if, what if one just doesn't not know Nicholson?) and now his art sells for millions! Millions! And why? Well, it's all in the hands of a good agent and it helps if you infiltrate the American market (says Jon the executor).


Apparently many of my fellow country men and women have money and not a whole lot of places to park it. Out of desperation, they look to art, which, I learn, in stable times, serves as a garage for their cash overflow. These have not been stable times.

I bow out after an hour. So much to do, so little time!

And as I walk down to the coast, I come across something that I swore yesterday didn't exist here: a farmer's market! True, it's not outdoors. And I have to say, it is so limited that I stand by my words that St. Ives doesn't really have a year round farmers market. This one has one vendor with produce, but mostly it has something that looks to me very much like a bake sale -- lots of brownies and slices of cake and quiche, alongside some very ordinary looking slabs of bacon. It may be quite fine bacon, but there isn't a sign to advertise its superior qualities.


I think some of the brownies and such are to be enjoyed at one of the tables to the side of the room, while you're chatting to your friends. I see, in fact, a congregation of young moms who appear to be hungry for conversation even more than they are for that brownie.


Alright, time for the hike.

You may remember that I walked the coastal path west of here (toward Land's End). And I walked the coastal path from Hayle due east. Well there is a missing link here and it's perfect for a day with limited hours: the coastal path between St. Ives, approaching Hayle.

It's an easy walk -- a few ups and downs but nothing significant. The interesting part takes perhaps two hours, but after, I detoured inland for obvious (daffodil related) reasons, giving me the sum total of three.

The truly beautiful aspect to this walk is that it provides splendid views onto the sandy coves. This is where I spotted the dogs playing (on the horizon you see the vague contours of the beach I had naviagted the day before, on my way toward the seal rocks)


...and then one of them bowing out of the frolic, to sit and contemplate life and eternity while gazing out to the quiet sea.


It's so peaceful here now! The beaches are empty, there is not a sound to disturb your inner harmony, but for the occasional wave that gently washes the sands.


One cove after the next, until you come to the inlet.

At low tide, the sands are vast. I mean, really vast. But the hiker needs to leave the sea coast here and follow the inlet to a point where there is a crossing (a mile or two away from the sea). And you'll see how the expanse of sand bends too, to follow that inlet. If you haven't grasped the vastness of this beach, then consider, please, that in the photo below, the dots on the center far right are people.


Looking over my shoulder, I see St. Ives.


It's a beautiful, for me, set of hours!

Turning toward the village of Lelant, I encounter a handful of strollers taking to the sandy terrain along the inlet. Colorfully dressed, they add zest to the landscape!


Away from the waters now, I pass a classic old church yard...


... and I walk along a sidewalk that shows England's true love for the garden flower.


And I am delighted to listen already to the sound of honey bees.


But wait, I'm close to those daffodils again! Wouldn't you walk an extra bit to face those ribbons of gold once more?


Of course you would.


Retreating now to a bus stop, I pass this cow, who has an interesting way of reaching the turnip growing on the other side of the electric fence.


And now I want to be back in St. Ives, to finish my artsy circuit (hence the bus back to town), even as I am reluctant to go to the Tate St.Ives, having listened to the discussion between the art connoisseurs earlier in the day. That photography show at the Tate Museum? It's rubbish! What's that all about anyway?  Apparently curators make a name for themselves by choosing the unconventional and edgy artwork, even as the public prefers the tried and true. Toward the end of the day, I do make it to the Tate and though I am a photograph exhibition buff and seek out these photo shows in many strange places, I have to admit that most of the one at the Tate St. Ives leaves me yawning. Here's another pair that walked through at lightening speed.


I must mention that before the Tate, I drink my tea in that familiar by now Digey Cafe, where I was urged to go my first day in St. Ives by the hikers who warned of boggy trails. Today I could not pass on this:


Because of that clotted cream, I may as well call it my second meal.


I want to post, too a photo of another trilogy: buildings on a St. Ives street that show off the three building materials commonly used here: stone, white plaster, or slate (which looks like a gray shingle, but isn't).


Out of today's art trilogy, I've saved the best for last here and this truly was sublime, even as I hadn't great expectations, being too full of sea air and daffodils to focus on the renowned greats who once lived and created art here. I'm referring now to the small museum and absolutely gorgeous sculpture garden of Barbara Hepworth. If you're curious and you find yourself clicking on the link, just scroll down the photos to the side. They give a terrific idea of her life and work.

(from the museum)

I should have remembered the name. Anyone who knows sculpture would know of her. Too, as a U.N. brat, I was in New York at the time a foundation commissioned her work to stand before the headquarters of the United Nations  in 1964. But, I was a kid then and I am terribly uninformed about the modern art scene now -- it's as if my visual orbit somehow got arrested with Matisse or Modigliani and I can go no further.

Let me just flag a few scenes from the sculpture garden. Obviously, the landscaping is important here and the options remain limited at this time of the year, but I think it's just sublime and especially so because in March, you can have the place to yourself. Here you have it -- the garden, introduced to you and me by the resident cat:




And now it's evening and again, the temperatures are dropping to the freezing point.  I have just a short walk to the restaurant that really may be one of my favorites in this country -- the very informal, very delightful Black Rock. I have Cornwall scallops with garlic, followed by a slow cooked beef dish (they describe it as "Trevaskis Farm sticky blade of beef slow cooked in porter, with celeriac puree and dressed kale" -- I had to ask what they mean by "sticky blade of beef!") that rivals anything prepared across the channel (and the French pride themselves at doing a slow cooked beef very well). I could not pass on the dessert -- a rhubarb and custard tart with Lelant honey ice cream (I saw the bees in Lelant that made that honey!) on a piece of meringue. Perfect, thin crust, heavenly flavors in the custard and ice cream. Who knew St. Ives could offer this!


The tide is low when I walk home. I can hear the sound of waves, but it's a distant noise. The stars are out, but my attention is drawn toward the bay and the lights of the buildings lining the shore.


I get sentimental on my last night in a place that I have grown to like. I think about returning to relive it all again. Sometimes I do, other times I move on to discover something new. But if great walks, good foods and a wonderful room with a view are what I search for, then shouldn't I return some day?


  1. The shore has its own melancholy beauty.

    Sandra Blow's canvases look much like the murals Mary has painted all along their basement hallway. Such a wide space, so free with the paintbrush.

    I did appreciate Barbara Hepworth's sculpture garden. And the cat, I think it may have been Herself. Doesn't she have quite the proprietary air?

  2. Especially loved the beach and garden pics. I'm usually not much for modern art but I do like the pieces in that garden.

  3. Wonderful beach views! And the art was so (by me) unexpected... fun to imagine being there.

  4. She had triplets! Barbara Hepworth, that is.

  5. I noticed the triplets in the timeline, too! :D What a beautiful place, Nina. I can see why you are dreaming of a return visit. The art to me reflects its setting -- your photos help me see the connections. (All three artists lived in St. Ives, no?) Colors and light; warm, smooth, graceful shapes; the largeness of life. Thank you for sharing with us here!


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