Inshore Fishing

3 out of 5 stars

It's funny how, after decades of distancing itself from mid-twentieth-century modernism, particularly the salty, Cornish kind, contemporary British art is embracing it with gusto. This is partly to do with curatorial enthusiasm for art historical ballast, partly down to the fashion for all things old – the same trend that gave us the first Frieze Masters art fair in October. The grand-daddy here is Peter Lanyon, whose 1952 painting 'Inshore Fishing' provides this show with its title along with a context of landscape-derived abstraction.

Restless, experimental, channelling land, sea and air on to canvas, Lanyon stands as a credible counterpart to Abstract Expressionists like Franz Kline. There's a touch of tragedy (hence glamour) to the story of this St Ives native who took to the skies in order to heighten his experience of the countryside, only to die in a glider crash in 1964. Predating his glider paintings 'Inshore Fishing', on loan from the collection of David Bowie, is less exhilarating than Lanyon's late great works.

Even so, this brooding distillation of craggy headland and surf gives the young dudes a lot to live up to. In small paintings like 'Sounded', Vincent Hawkins comes closest to Lanyon's aesthetic of making space appear to fold in on itself. Reminding us that the landscape is shaped by mythology and literature as much as the elements, Cornwall-based artist Abigail Reynolds fashions fragmentary plinth-based landscapes from bits of glass and card and books, including titles like AK Hamilton Jenkins' 'The Story of Cornwall'.

Connections are clear. Yet, concentrating on resemblances between past and present, the show misses the point that Lanyon's heirs are more likely to be boundary-pushing land and performance


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