Periodic Summary, Week 34 – 37 2020

The past few weeks of Unit 3 were spent on the continuous experimenting with salt, string and some natural objects. It was aimed to connect my research regarding the Cornish art’s transition from productions of art colonies to a primitive exploration of indigenous understanding of their identity as well as culture. I was fascinated by different sources that formed the history of the Penwith peninsula. 

Most recently I gained inspiration from famous sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s work and Constructivist Naum Gabo, and produced a little craft called Wave Form, then follows a series of little sculptures called Sail Forms. The lockdown significantly restricted the useable amount of Cornish salt, which should have been manually extracted and taken back to London. I was forced to mix a certain amount of left-overs to salt that bought from local stores, which I found surprisingly suitable in this case. The Cornish culture, identity and art in my opinion, still require a long process of decolonisation to show its distinctiveness. As it was in this project, the materiality of Cornish salt that being questioned was originally inspired by the difference between Cornish sea salt and other regular sea salt. I believe the former emphasises on the uniqueness of a cultural signature, and this concept has surpassed the competitiveness of massive-manufactured products as an awakening of regionalism. The current dilemma is the difficulty of connecting my practice with the research content. I recon a proper display of such topic that ultimately aimed for a precise interrogation would require a more powerful way of depicting. The Sail Forms, not only inspired by shapes and colours I found in nature but also reveals my fondness of elegant curves of Hepworth and outstretched structures of Naum Gabo.

Wave Form, Salt and Watercolour, 2020
Sail Form Series, 2020

Sail Form 1, 2020
Sail Form 2, 2020
Sail Form 3, 2020

The primary target I found very interesting was from my previous travels to Cornwall and Mark Jenkin’s film Bait. At the very beginning, I had an imagination that a relatively narrowed economic source might cause a further devolution of the region’s industrial structure. It means the wildly growing tourism and real estate investment could massively compress the under-developed manufacturing industry and traditional businesses. The economic structure of the county may considerably rely on outside visitors. In order to maintain a stable financial capability, Cornwall, as it has been stated in many reports and articles, would need to demonstrate a very idealised landscape image that shaped by screen products, post-colonialism and preoccupied impressions of a leisurely destination. The history of the county, especially how its lifestyle was celebrated in the field of art was because of up-country artists’ travels that began in the 19th Century. Turner, Farington and Daniel’s journey pictured a remote land with traditional productive activities. The unstoppable wheel of industrialisation on the other end of England not only generated a mature art market which supplies buyers and demands but also considered these forgotten medieval life-earning methods idyllic and romantic. Then countless artists flooded in the Peninsula and transformed west Cornwall as one of the most successful art colony in European history. 

Catch of the Day, 2020

The sculpture shown above, Catch of the Day should be considered as a constant reminder of the image beneath the pictorial depiction of Cornish landscapes. Sea has been a significant resource to feed the Cornish people. I created this work to inform that there is a very squeezed fishing industry that still existed in this “one of the poorest region of west Europe”. It was also inspired by the word “wrecking” as well as the dark side of this desperate way of survive. I read about that scavengers would shake lanterns on cliffs as if they were beacons marking deep and calm water. Ships would be lured to these little light spots then smashed themselves or stranded on shores, spill out cargos to feed coastal villages. 

Feast on, 2020

Another similar piece, Feast on, interrogate an interesting phrase I used many times for landscape paintings of Cornish natural heritage. A tall glass completely covered in crystallised Cornish salt, and filled with large fragments of the mineral was used to challenge “a celebration of Cornish landscape”. I tried to explore the true essence of the landscape that had been briefly celebrated so many times, pointing out a lost maritime history that constantly being covered by touristic attractions in the vacation season. I really would like to put a little umbrella on the pile of salt, but I realised this cup is actually for red wine. 

Passive Decoration, 2020

The last craft here is called Passive Decoration. I interpreted pinecone as a potent religious symbol, and with it depicted my concern over losing identity and culture in the imperceptible process of post-colonisation. The pinecone would stretch open when air humidity drops to a certain point, but crystallised salt prevented this characteristic while creating a shiny decoration surface. Its fixation on the fruit created a paused physical status of a vegetal specimen. I was greatly inspired by shipwreck, moorings, floating woods and all sort of objects that to do with the maritime culture of Cornwall. I was thinking of building up a monument of shipwrecks, aims for reflecting the harsh environmental conditions that Cornish people managed to survive.

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About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.