A 'naive' view of Zennor

June 4, 2019

 

ONE question I’ve long pondered is whether a ‘naive artist’ has to be genuinely naive to achieve the required results.

Is it possible for someone as worldly-wise as me - and I say that not as a boast, but a statement of incontrovertible fact - to produce something genuinely primitive, unschooled and uninformed?

My interest in this conundrum was reignited by a book I read recently about the three Cornwall-based painters, Joan Gillchrest, Bryan Pearce and Fred Yates, all of whom qualify for the terms ‘naive’ and ‘primitive’.

Their work was unquestionably raw, basic and striking, but also original in the sense that it appeared to emerge from the very hearts and souls of its creators.

Two of them - Gillchrest and Yates - would qualify as full-on English eccentrics to whom painting was an essential bodily function, like breathing or talking.

The third, Bryan Pearce, suffered a congenital condition which rendered him incommunicative in every conventional sense. Painting, for him, was his highly distinctive way of recording, and conveying to others, his unusual view of the world.

It was against this background that I produced this collage of a place very close to my heart - the lovely village of Zennor in West Cornwall.

I set out to produce a ‘naive’ or ‘primitive’ rendition of a scene I’ve loved for several decades, the tiny St Senara church set among the Celtic field patterns of West Penwith.

It is, like many of my drawings, a reflective impression of place rather than a photographic representation of the actuality, but its importance for me was to see whether naiveté could be contrived.

The answer, I fear, is no, it can’t, but I still think this picture has some merit as an image to cover, say, a water-stain in the utility room or a splash of coffee on the kitchen wall. What it lacks is the child-like spontaneity that Picasso so revered.

However, I offer you my latest masterwork - Zennor, Cornwall - in the hope that it touches a chord. 

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