At our January meeting, we were delighted to welcome John Piper, one of the best known artists working in Cornwall today, whose paintings of the carns, cliffs, farm buildings and moors of West Penwith have been exhibited throughout the UK and abroad. Indeed, John admitted to us that he never wants to paint anywhere else.
John brought along a number of his paintings – from some of his early, representational art done when he was a student, right up to examples of his more recent work. He spoke of how, having re-located to Cornwall mid-A Level, he was dismissed as a waste of space by Craske Rising, the Head of the boys grammar school in Penzance, and dismissed to the Art Room, which – ironically – was the beginning of a lifelong love of painting. He remembers with affection his teacher and mentor then, the late Charlie McCarthy, and of being inspired by a Patrick Heron painting to explore colour and pattern in his own work. It was fascinating to hear him describe how he builds his pictures in layers of colour and of his approach to “flattening out” the perspective on the terraces of miners’ cottages which appear in many of his best-known works. We were even allowed to feel – literally – the texture of the layers of paint on his canvasses.
Even the least artistic among us came away with a better understanding of how an artist approaches his work. And the paintings were beautiful – colourful, evocative and completely rooted in the countryside of West Penwith.