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Lucy Willow: Memento Mori & Juliette Paul: Between Shadows

Millennium, St Ives  7th until 30th March 2009




As this show opened at Millennium Gallery in St Ives, so its sister gallery, Goldfish in Penzance closed. Over the last few years, under the stewardship of Joe Clark, Goldfish had acquired a reputation as the most daring of the private galleries in Cornwall, showing a bias towards outsider artists - or at least a number of fiercely idiosyncratic and visionary ones - interested particularly in figurative art and representations of the human condition. Now Clark has moved to a single base of operations in St Ives it is expected that much of this original spirit will survive, though freshened up and, hopefully, strengthened by the new context.



This new spirit is very much evident in Lucy Willow's show: 'Memento Mori', which consists of 15 photographs of still lives, inspired by 17th century 'vanitas', together with one small sculpture. In fact they are photographs that are part-paintings, in as much as, after printing, their colours have been meticulously hand-smudged and blended. However they lack the texture of paintings and so their surfaces remain smooth and inscrutable, in contrast to the chunky gilt frames in which many have been placed.



The photographs' subjects include decaying fruit, dead birds, animals, candelabras and necklaces which recur in various combinations. Ornate and melancholy, they are representations of death once-removed. They also even suggest that it's something that's strangely seductive and pretty. Certainly, unlike Willow's 'dust rug' - one of the 3 or 4 highlights of the Art Now Cornwall Tate show - which was a physical embodiment of transience or impermanence, the Memento Mori photographs symbolise rather than actualise these qualities.



Willow's show is one clear idea restated in different ways. Juliette Paul's paintings downstairs, however, depict several overlapping visual ideas, and form a collection of work that is varied, though united by a kind of earthy modernist-style approach to abstraction.

In one or two of the paintings artfully scrawled writing reminiscent of Cy Twombly emphasising the surface of the canvas, is juxtaposed with indefinite abstract shapes. In most of the rest, especially those that take the theme of a figure in the landscape as the starting point, the space of the painting is deeper. This includes 'Nightsong' and 'Dawn Rising' which are particularly strong (above left and centre). Both have a hugely cinematic quality: their dark grounds creating a dramatic backdrop for the looming ghostly apparitions that float in front.



RW 26/3/09