BC030

Untitled

[Mousehole Cornwall 3]

Entrance to harbour with high or incoming tide. Dark shape of boat below sea wall left. Cropped side of house on cliff left. Derrick masts with guy wires. Indistinct land mass mid to upper centre.

Date
1950 1951
Object type
painting
Medium and materials
oil on brown linen
Dimensions
image:235x292mm
canvas:255x298mm
Place Made
Cornwall, England
Inscriptions

LL brush point overpainted Flora Scales 1951 (date partially illegible)

LR ochre brush point H Scales

Details
Provenance

Purchased by original owner in early 1976 while at the Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, exhibition, Helen F V Scales, 1975-1976

Condition Report

Metal eyelets inserted middle of top, bottom and sides of canvas stretcher (since framed, eyelets remain intact)

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. 4 in this exhibition.

Purchased from this exhibition by present owner in 1976 who commented in conversation with B. de Lange, “the colour I find ravishing with its mother-of-pearl sheen – its translucency – like Bonnard's paintings of the 1930s and 1940s.”

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 2] [BC029] could possibly be the one to which she was referring.

As in Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 1] [BC028] and Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 2] [BC029], 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.

Exhibitions
References

‘Becoming Modern: The paintings of Flora Scales’ by Jennifer Higgie, written for florascales.com, 2022

"Untitled [Mousehole Cornwall 3] [BC030] (1950-51), made around the same time, is a testament to Scales’s ability to evoke a sense of both place and infinity: a swirling composition of yellows and blues, diluted with watery light punctuated by a small dark boat and a pulley, hints at a cosmic journey to come."

Acknowledgments

Photos by Sam Hartnett

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