This was a hard book to get an angle on because it’s basically a list of people, both those who have used the studio and those who live in the area. It’s certainly the first book I’ve reviewed that has quite so many (well, in truth, any) biographies of fishermen. I’ve spent a long time with it, trying to get my fingers under the surface of what seems to be a perfect sphere. I can see what it is and I can see how it’s done, but the matter of the title keeps slipping from my grasp.
And then I got it. What, after all, is a studio, other than a building – and one with no specific architectural or vernacular merit at that? Of course – it’s the people. Doh! We all know the artistic history of St Ives, from the Colony to the Tate. We also know that the town was (still is, just about) a fishing port. But what brings it all together? Exactly.
Getting the angle to tell the story of a place that’s defined in this way must have been as hard as finding a way into the finished result, but Marion has hit on the perfect way. Don’t come here looking for reproductions of artworks, though there’s an Alfred Wallis and several Barbara Hepworths. Rather, read the story of the people who worked in and around Porthmeor Studios and follow the subtle build-up of the story of a community that’s more interlinked than you might think.
It’s a tale worth telling and one well-told.
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