A return trip to Botallack
In his Portrait of Cornwall, published in 1963, Claude Berry writes of “the gaunt ruin of Botallack”, deeming it as “one of the most spectacular, and for that reason perhaps the most pathetic of Cornwall’s ‘knackt bals’.”
Looking at its engine houses now, the “Crowns”, perched precariously on the cliff edge, and thinking of the fact that its workings ran far out under the sea, and of the miners who could hear the rumble of the sea-driven rocks above them as they worked, it is difficult to imagine that during some sixty years of its being an active mine the copper and tin they “brought to grass” fetched more than a million pounds sterling.
An area with an atmosphere and history of its own, a couple of years after Claude Berry’s comments on Botallack, and several years prior to the publication of and the eventual television treatment of novelist Winston Graham’s books on the adventures of Ross Poldark, a group of students, among them Patrick Haughton (pictured) , from the West of England College of Art
with tutors Paul Feiler, Dick Gilbert and Karl Weschke, were to spend an unforgettable week there. They weren’t to know then that some fifty or so years later they would again hit the road from St Ives to St Just, and recall some of the moments from that week in 1965 – or that their return visit would give rise to the exhibition, Patrick Haughton & Friends: 50 Years On! now being held in the Studio Gallery within the Penwith Gallery in St Ives.
Originally planned as a retrospective show in celebration of the artist’s 75th birthday, while centred around Patrick Haughton’s life and work, this “retrospective with re-connections” now embraces contributions from some of those who once “howled at the moon with him in Cot Valley”. Although, as he says: “Most of the group didn’t fully appreciate ‘the Cornish thing’ at the time, the visit to Cornwall did make a strong impression on them, but they certainly didn’t anticipate coming back to Botallack 50-plus years on.”
Born in Devonport, Patrick Haughton first set out to be an architect but abandoned his training in favour of paint brush and study at Exeter College of Art where Clifford Fishwick was then its principal. He later attended the West of England College of Art in Bristol, and subsequently taught for several years, becoming head of Kennall Vale School near Truro in the early 1980s. A position he relinquished in 1995, it was then that his career as a full time professional painter took off.
Since then he has been elected as a full member of Newlyn Society of Artists, an associate member of Penwith Society of Arts, spent time as artist in residence with the Association des Amis de La Grande Vigne, in Dinan, France, and has exhibited widely throughout his adopted Cornwall, and further afield. From a very early work Natura Morta, made in 1967, and which was sold before the show even opened, to Back to Botallack ’65, made earlier this year, the works that make up Patrick Haughton’s retrospective are stepping stones through his distinguished, full time professional career. From Just a Memory (1995) to another made earlier this year Men Scryfa
(2018), they highlight the different stages, the shifts of emphasis that have occurred throughout the years, from reflections on the landscape to the encompassing of concerns regarding the sense of time and space. Then, too, there is the evidence of those things that have influenced him along the way, from cubism and constructivism to the music he plays in his studio.
From After a Refit (1995) and Standing in the Garden, Trelissick (1997) to A Single Note, Levant (2004) and On the Edge, Abandoned Mine (2016), this is a retrospective which pays a well-deserved tribute to Penryn-based Patrick Haughton, while presenting an intriguing, illustrated and informative account of his life’s work. It can be seen in Penwith Gallery, St
Ives, until December 8.