Standing in for Tate St Ives during its refurbishment, Newlyn plays host to an exhibition of its favourite adopted son: Sir Terry Frost

Standing in for Tate St Ives during its refurbishment, Newlyn plays host to an exhibition of its favourite adopted son: British painter Sir Terry Frost

In an exhibition celebrating the centenary of the birth of the British painter who made Cornwall his home, it seems fitting that Newlyn’s Art Gallery and The Exchange has been chosen to exhibit this Tate-curated exhibition of paintings, collages and sculptural forms taken from public and private collections across the UK. It was in Newlyn that the modernist and member of Penwith Society died in 2003, aged 87.

Frost – or to give him his full moniker Terence Ernest Manitou Frost - was born in Leamington Spa in 1915, leaving school at 14 to work in a bicycle shop. But he only really began to paint during his time as a prisoner of war in Stalag 383 after being captured during the invasion of Crete. At the end of the war, he moved to Quay Street, St Ives where he studied under Leonard Fuller – and worked as an assistant to sculptor Barbara Hepworth as she prepared for the Festival of Britain exhibition - and got caught up in the lively group of British modernists all working with abstraction, which included Roger Hilton, Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon and Bryan Wynter.

Frost went on to develop his trademark style after teaching in California in the 1960s where he discovered painting with acrylic paints and using looped and heaped weights of colour that seemingly bulge and rotate from his canvases. His work is an emotional response to his surroundings and the activity he observes and there is real joy in his canvases which are often inspired by Cornish scenes before him.

Frost’s work is very easy to like - and is the perfect antidote to the Cornish winter. His use of colour and shape remind us of Cornwall’s stunning light and the seas that surround us. The lower gallery is dominated by Green Below, one of the last works made by Frost. This work greets visitors to Newlyn Art Gallery and a bench invites the viewer to sit and enjoy the vibrant colours and the vertical semi-circles which bob on top of the lines beneath it and which seems to represent boats rocking against linear waves in the harbour outside. the painting sits with a series of striking prints that Frost made with Hugh Stoneman from 1992 onwards that have been curated around one of the gallery corners in individual frames.

This exhibition highlights key paintings and collages from Frost’s formative periods working in Cornwall and Yorkshire, including paintings from his breakthrough Walk Along the Quay series, which he began in 1950. These tall, thin canvases are evocative of St Ives and Cornwall’s many harbours. In contrast are the large-scale paintings such as Blue Winter 1956 and Orange and Black, Leeds 1957, painted in response to the Yorkshire Dales, after his move to Leeds.

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Also on show are works begun in 1970 when Frost developed a range of soft sculptures’ including stacks, spirals and loops, made from painted canvas tubes filled with polystyrene balls. Suspending these arcing forms from the walls and ceiling, or bundling them together, he sought to bring out colour in all its intensity without hard structure or flat surface – as a brushstroke in space. The exhibition also features a re-commissioned series of these little-known, strikingly contemporary three-dimensional works.

The exhibition is spread across two venues - and Penzance’s Exchange features key paintings and collages from Terry Frost’s formative periods working in Cornwall and Yorkshire in the 1950s and 60s. The exhibition is organised by Tate St Ives in collaboration with Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange and Leeds Art Gallery.

Abstracted in nature, a lot of the inspiration for his work came from Cornwall, from the sea and the light and the reflections on the water. His most recognised works are joyful expanses of colour and line, often circular and reminiscent of Cornwall’s incredible light and constant movement. This is a must-see exhibition for lovers of light, colour and life in Cornwall.

10 October 2015 – 9 January 2016

Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange