home features exhibitions | interviewsprofileswebprojects | gazetteer | linksarchive | forum


Jeremy LeGrice: Boats

Badcocks Gallery, Newlyn   21st March - 22nd April 2008


The most striking thing about Jeremy LeGrice's show at Badcock's is the sheer number of works on the walls.  Loosely painted pictures of boats are clustered together in flotillas of between 6 and 20, each with the same uniform black frames. Individually they are small and quiet, but they come together harmoniously with the loud insistence of an orchestra or choir.

In using the motif of the boat, as he has done for many years, LeGrice is navigating the cliched and dangerous waters of 'Cornish kitsch'. However he sails confidently away from trouble (to continue the maritime metaphor) by plotting a modernist course similar to that taken by Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood - who famously painted images of Newlyn Harbour, and Jack Pender - who recently had a retrospective at Penlee House.

In LeGrice's paintings at Badcocks the boat is often little more than a cursory black blob, detached from its context so that although it is a depiction of Cornwall, it doesn't have to be. Dark and enigmatic like a shadow, the vessel is stripped down to its essence - to its Jungian archetype - so that one boat can stand for every boat. It becomes a symbol that reaches back in history to a time when boats were more important than cars; back to the time of legends; to Tristan and Iseult or the Odyssey perhaps.

Although the subject is ancient and iconic, the attitude and paint handling seems to owe much to the St Ives modernists of the last century, and to the likes of Peter Lanyon with whom LeGrice studied in the 60s. As Lanyon frequently did, LeGrice paints on board in a way that imparts a weathered and rustic feel to the work.  The perspective-defying scratchy flatness that results, is an important formal quality shared by all the paintings as well as the frames they lie in. It is also something which the St Ives modernists admired in Alfred Wallis and Italian frescoes.

His painting in series, however, seems more post-modern: with each iteration of the process producing another variation, and another fragment of the total. (It should be said however that the works, despite being shown in this way, are not being sold as series and almost certainly would have a very different impact when seen individually).

And it isn't all boats. There are one or two simple landscape paintings, seascapes and others with architectural elements in the show, but it is boats that LeGrice has made his signiature, and it is the boats that steal the day.


RW 10/4/08