Tate Gallery, St Ives: Patrick Heron in context

The director’s new scheme of quarterly changes will show more than just the work of local artists


“Patrick Heron: garden paintings” is the first in a new schedule of four rehangs at the Tate St Ives this year, accompanied by a budget six times bigger than last year’s allowance of £30,000. With the opening of this exhibition, the Tate St Ives has also begun to sell artists’ multiples, on view in the café, to visitors.

The late Patrick Heron was a key-figure in post-war British art, as were his contemporaries and fellow St Ives immigrants, such as Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Peter Lanyon and Bryan Wynter. Up until this year the Tate St Ives has functioned almost as a place of pilgrimage for visitors interested in the art of the St Ives school, until local feedback showed a desire for more variety.

Susan Daniel-McElroy moved from the Scottish Arts Council to become the director of Tate St Ives a year ago and within two months had converted her previous regional experience (she is also a former director of Oriel Mostyn Gallery in Wales) into an innovative plan for the Tate’s furthest outpost. Although two of the Tategalleries will remain devoted to the works of St Ives’ artists, the remaining three will place the selected exhibition artist in a wider context.

This spring, in the two upstairs galleries, the Heron works from which the exhibition takes its title are linked by subject matter but separated by 25 years of the artist’s career. The first garden paintings communicate the lush flowers and the gaunt granite which so impressed Heron when he bought Eagles Nest, Zennor, in 1955 and demonstrate the abstract rhythm he was discovering. By the 80s, the garden paintings inspired by a visit the artist made to Australia are far less intense.

Heron was also a successful critic and Ms Daniel Daniel-McElroy has borrowed works by many of the Modern artists which he wrote about from the National Collection to illustrate Heron’s tastes and influences. Works by Matisse, Vuillard, Bonnard and Braque have never been shown at the Tate St Ives before and may well encourage repeat visits and boost revenue from local membership. No such luck with Monet—as the National Gallery refused to release it from long term loan—but with more displays like this one, and with Antony Gormley the subject of the next exhibition (16 June-2 September), the borrowing power of the Tate St Ives can only increase.

“Patrick Heron: garden paintings” at Tate St Ives, Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1TG Tel: +44 (0)1736 796226, fax+44 (0)1736 794480 (until 3 June)