Artistic Reactions to the Clay Landscape at Wheal Martyn

We are delighted to present an exhibition by seven contemporary artists, influenced by their artistic reactions to the clay landscape.

We invited artists from different stages of their careers to explore the transformative effect china clay mining has had and continues to have on the landscape surrounding St Austell and the Clays. The artists ranged from undergraduate Falmouth University drawing students to professional award-winning artists and ceramicists. Each artist was given the freedom to create a piece of art which reflected their own experiences and practises, leading to a collective of beautiful ceramics, drawings and prints.

The aim of the project was to provide early career artists the opportunity to gain experience of installing an exhibition by working alongside professional artists. Falmouth University students were invited to Wheal Martyn to explore the site and learn more about the importance of Cornwall’s global industry. Students were then invited to submit a piece of artwork based on their experience of the site.

Anna Claypole, a Falmouth University Drawing Student, decided to base her piece on a blast shelter. She said, ‘The blast shelter stood out to me with its copper structure amongst the green wilderness – a man-made sphere juxtaposed with the incredible landscape around it that seemed to be taking it over. Its metal is rusting, decaying and falling apart, and the foliage around it, dead with winter. The trees surrounding will grow their leaves again, but the shelter will continue to break down and disintegrate.’

Fellow student Lee Bates said, ‘This opportunity at Wheal Martyn has given me a fantastic insight into professional practice within a gallery/ museum setting. Opportunities such as these can be hard to come by, even at a later stage in your career, so I jumped at the chance to display and install my work alongside some established and talented artists. It has been an invaluable experience and has without doubt developed my professional practice.’

‘My piece explores the relationship of past and present, nature and industry and growth and decay that all coexist at Wheal Martyn. I used contrast to emphasise these relationships and draw attention to the traces of the industry dotted around the site. I am constantly looking at everyday scenes and objects, trying to search for stories that would otherwise be lost in our increasingly hectic day-to-day lives. This scene and many others like it around Wheal Martyn serve as a reminder of our heritage, showcasing that despite great differences between subjects, both can coexist and create something uniquely beautiful.’

Nikita Brown, Exhibition and Engagement Officer at Wheal Martyn, said, ‘It has been great to work with such a variety of artists and it has been fantastic for the students to learn from those further on in their career. When the artists came together for the first time, each was surprised about how well their pieces fitted together, often reflecting the same colour palette. In the exhibition, we have decided not to state which work has been submitted by a student or a professional, allowing their pieces to be shown together on an equal footing. Wheal Martyn is committed to the development of young people and we hope to continue this project in the future.  A huge thank you to all of the artists involved: Jenny Beavan, Stuart Thorn, Suzy Johnson, Lynn Simms, Carol Weir, Lee Bates and Anna Claypole. Thank you to Wheal Martyn’s Arts and Craft for Health group who also contributed the bricks they made during their Brickfields workshop with artists Rosanna Martin and Georgia Gendall (https://whitegold.org.uk/clayexchange/).

The exhibition ‘Artistic Reactions to the Clay Landscape’ will be displayed in Wheal Martyn’s Atrium until Sunday 17th May.

For more information, call 01726 850362 or email info@wheal-martyn.com

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