BC029

Untitled

[Mousehole Cornwall 2]

View of harbour at low tide. Foreground group of beached row boats. Derrick centre midground and houses on cliff upper left.

Other title(s)
Mousehole, Cornwall
Date
c. 1950 1959
Object type
painting
Medium and materials
oil on canvas
Dimensions
290x375mm
Place Made
Cornwall, England
Inscriptions

LL inky blue brush point Flora Scales

LR white over blue and ochre brush point H Scales

Details
Provenance

Purchased by the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand, from the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition Helen F V Scales, 1976

Copyright Licence
Courtesy Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, New Zealand, Ref. no. 76/65, https://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/collection/76-65/helen-flora-victoria-scales/mousehole-cornwall
Current Collection

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

Current Location

Christchurch, New Zealand

General notes

Title and date supplied by the artist for the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976. Listed as artwork no. 3 in this exhibition.

Alternative title, Mousehole, Cornwall, taken from Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, New Zealand, documentation.

In a wall label written for The Cornish Connection at The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, New Zealand, 2017-2018, Julie Catchpole, Director, writes, “In the 1950s [Scales] must have spent time in Cornwall where by then her handling of paint is very loose and broad, almost to the point of abstraction.”

In conversation with B. de Lange, 1983, Scales spoke of living in “a horrible yellow house in Mousehole.” The yellow house seen in this painting, Untitled [Mousehole, Cornwall 1] [BC028] and Untitled [Mousehole, Cornwall 3] [BC030] could possibly be the one to which she was referring.

As in Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 1] [BC028] and Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 3] [BC030], the derrick is the focal point of this composition. The V-shape formed by its vanes links this painting to the early shapes of ship’s rigging [Shipping, Wellington Harbour] [BC128]], the agaves of the 1930s [Untitled [Mediterranean Scene] 1 [BC016]] and the forked tree trunks of the late 1960s and early 1970s [Bry-sur-Marne, Orchard] [BC069]], in which this shape becomes a tool for her construction of dynamic pictorial space.

In the 1930s, the use of a V-shape as a spatial tool appeared in Scales’s work. In the 1920s Scales often painted yachts and ships and it seems she may have recognised the potential of the V-shape made by their riggings and masts and later began to incorporate the form into the vocabulary of her Modernist work following Hans Hofmann's instruction to do away with single-point perspective.

The V-shapes of the agaves, derricks and cranes, flowers, and forked orchard trees, that are such significant elements in her work during and after the 1930s, literally turn the idea of a vanishing point upside-down to suggest a space extending outwards towards the vertical edges of the canvas.

As well as the equilibrium established by the balanced vanes of the V-shape, there is also an immanent sense of movement. Hofmann said, "We have to experience the object as vital in her existence in space" (Dickey, Tina, Color Creates Light: Studies with Hans Hofmann, Trillistar Books, Canada, 2011, pg 27). Hofmann explained that volumes revolve on their axes to create a sense of movement and counter-movement, which animates and gives depth to the flat surface of the picture plane.

Scales's use and manipulation of the V-shape is one of several examples in her work which demonstrate the way she assimilated, and made her own, the teachings of Hans Hofmann. This example in particular shows her personal interpretation, without imitation, of his theories about the creation of plastic space, which were crucial to the development of her modernism.

References

‘The Cornish Connection at the Suter Art Gallery, Nelson’ by Michael Moore-Jones, https://mmoorejones.com/cornish-connection-suter-art-gallery-nelson/, 2017

“Interestingly, Flora Scales was perhaps the star of the show. A number of her late oils show the range of influences acting on her, and the kinds of skills and style she passed on to Toss Woollaston and, through Woollaston, McCahon."

Acknowledgments

Photo by John Collie