Exhibition: Amongst Heroes: the artist in working Cornwall

When I first decided to write an arts blog, my main concern was that it would speak to people who don’t actively seek out the arts – not due to a lack of interest in creativity, but a lack of interest in a stuffy, dull and greying cliché.

At uni, I spent a year poking around dusty archives, interviewing local experts and trawling, trawling, trawling the web for anything that could shed a little light on the underestimated and supremely talented Henry Scott Tuke. A hundred years on, he’s still an exciting artist (was he gay? Was he straight? Does it matter?*); so I was delighted to hear of his significant presence at Amongst Heroes: The Artist in Working Cornwall at Two Temple Place.

But did the exhibition do Tuke and his Newlyn School cohorts justice? Did it lift Cornish worker art out of obscurity and into the spotlight?

Hell yeah, it did. With paintings on the walls and boats on the floors, not to mention the stun-ing setting, the exhibition was one of my favourite non-blockbusters I've seen since moving to London. Seriously. My only advice to newbies is to read up a little beforehand. Cornwall doesn't flaunt its most interesting and beautiful parts, and nor do its artists. It’s your job to do a little detective work.

I caught up with Hannah Jordan to chat about her experience as Programme Co-ordinator of Amongst Heroes.

*That pretty much compresses my 8,000 word dissertation into 9 words

Which is your favourite piece/who is your favourite artist featured in the exhibition?
My personal favourite is ‘The Pilot’ by William John Wainwright (see above). He has such an expressive face.  I can’t work out if he’s sad or just well-worn, but he has such a kind face and I’d really like him to stay!

Were any of the artworks difficult to come by?
Fortunately for us, many of the lenders were keen to have the works exhibited – that’s why we’ve got over a hundred pieces in the show. We were overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm, and are so pleased to see that reflected in the visitors’ responses. This is clearly an untapped passion of the art world outside of Cornwall.
How does the show speak to those who are just starting to explore art?
We’ve found that many people stumble upon the building in pursuit of the artworks – and vice versa. As it's a free exhibition, we’ve been able to open our doors to a wider range of visitors, which has made for some interesting discussions! Very few of the staff are from a Museums of Heritage background, so we know firsthand the benefits of an exhibition that is free from assumption.

Amongst Heroes: the artist in working Cornwall runs until April 14th, 2013. Catch it for free at Two Temple Place – more information can be seen here.

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