Just a day before it closed, I was lucky enough to see the recent Tate St Ives show which used Virginia Woolf’s life, writing and ideas as a starting point for an exhibition of art, craft and activism by women over the last century or so. I’ll add some pictures below but for now two things stood out.
One was seeing the two paintings above in the way that they were presented. I love Gwen John’s paintings and I love Vanessa Bell’s but I’ve never really thought of them as similar. Bell is restlessly experimenting, her colours seemingly becoming brighter, her style veering from naturalism to abstract, sometimes within the same image. I’ve always thought of John’s hazy paintings as depicting intense, controlled people and places.
These two paintings of theirs however, really complement each other and bring home similarities of style that I hadn’t previously grasped. They’re hung together in a part of the exhibition which makes a point of the importance of rooms to female artists and writers (drawing on Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’) and the visual evidence is compelling.
There’s a lot of food for thought in the exhibition which moves onto Chichester and Cambridge if you want to see it.
But the other big impact of my visit came from the gallery itself. It was my first visit. I know it’s been controversial but I think that as well as housing some impressive work, the building is a work of art in itself.