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Von Ribbentrop in St Ives: Art and war in the last resort

"Pretence becomes the currency" says film maker and artist Andrew Lanyon at Kettle's Yard Gallery

Von Ribbentrop in St Ive’s Art and War in the last resort was one of the best exhibitions I’ve seen at the gallery and painter, author and filmaker Andrew Lanyon kindly gave me an interview at the show.

Kettles Yard’s exhibition tear sheet put it succinctly:

“The exhibition explores the original and surprising ways the remarkable intersections of art history and every day life in St Ives in the years before the second world war.

The exhibition includes paintings by Andrew Lanyon and his father Peter , works by Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood and Nuam Gabo from the Kettles Yard collection, archival material. Interactive models and especially commissioned works by Paul Chaney, Kenny everett, Olly Hadfeld, Chri James. Sam Lanynon, Paul Mates, Debbire Prosser, Paul Spooner, Stella Turk, Paul Vibert and Carlos Zapata.

The Exhibition, which follows faithfully the narrative structure of the book, revolves around apparently unrelated stories of Joachim Von Ribbentrop’s holidays in Cornwall during the 1930’s and the encounter of London based artist Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood with the Cornish fisherman-painter Alfred Wallis.

Lanyon turns these two stories into thought provoking and often humourous exploration of the debates on abstraction and realism in the interwar years. He reflects on the role of the epic  and the every day in art , and highlights the power of imagination and memory in shaping not only creative work but also war.

Through extensive work research Andrew Lanyon had unearthed evidence of `Von Ribbentrop’s role in the gathering of intelligence about the English coastline in preparation for a german invasion of Britain.

During his visits to Cornwall the then German Ambassador for Britain collected seaside postcards which Lanyon believes were included in a handbook for invading troops published in 1942.

The encounter with Alfred Wallis with  Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, in the summer of 1928 has often been described , a bit simplistically, as a ‘discovery’. Lanyon challenges many of their commonly-held ideas about Wallis’ relationship with the sophisticated artists form London. One of his paintings shows Wallis noticing Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood  half an hour before their discovery of him; an in another Wallis chooses not to be discovered after all.”

Listen to the podcast Arts Round Up Episode 1


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