A Field Trip to St Buryan

Groundwork Volunteer Sam Stone joined Robin Dowell and James Fergusson on a field trip to explore the landscape around St Buryan, and has written the following thoughts about the event. You can find more of Sam’s writing on her website.


Another great event organised as part of this year’s Groundwork programme of art, the field trip to St Buryan held us entranced by the landscape and our guides for almost six hours.

We started our walk in the mizzle at the church that is both commonly associated with the area since the release of the psychological thriller Straw Dogs in 1971.

Previously described as the ‘wickedest parish’ of Cornwall, St Buryan hasn’t earned its reputation from the film but from its eight-year excommunication from the church in 1328 following a dispute over control of the religious matters in the parish.

It’s more fascinating history was explained by Robin Dowell and James Fergusson as we made our way across the atmospheric landscape to a renowned site littered with evidence of human activity from Neolithic times. We scoured the furrows for flint but found little with our untrained eyes as we progressed towards a number of stone crosses within the parish. The best examples of which were cited in the churchyard and on the outskirts of the village as we made our way towards the coast. The roughly circular remains of the celtic crosses which featured carved figures on the faces were pagan in origin and marked ancient crossing points.


We eventually the paths flanked by the high hedgerows bursting with the last intense hues of the bluebells and pinks of the wild campion and plunged into some spectacular waterside glades. As we a weaved our way under canopies of rare Elm the weather improved enough to make a lunch stop amongst the giant rounded rocks of ‘boulder storm beach’, St Loy. Worn smooth by the action of the sea after they had fallen from the cliff face, sometime before the last Ice Age, they made perfect pitches for a picnic. The fascinating archaeological history displayed on the beach as well as the exposed cliffs turned most of us into explorers once our sandwiches had been consumed and we poked and prodded quite happily amongst the fascinating landscape until recalled to make our return.

Within the hours we spent with Robin and James, I gained a comprehensive insight into the geological, environmental, archaeological and cultural importance of the parish. The experience left me inspired by the landscape and I will definitely return at some point to explore the previously unknown coastline between Lamorna and Porthcurno. In the meantime, I will be watching the CAST website closely for any future field trips.



Peter Doig in conversation with Matthew Higgs

Volunteer Sam Stone has written about the Groundwork event that happened on the 26th May at Falmouth School of Art, a conversation between painter Peter Doig and artist and curator Matthew Higgs. You can read more of Sam’s blog posts on her website

One of the highlights of being part of the Groundworks Team is having a schedule of events at my fingertips. So whilst consulting the literature for some visitors I noticed that an evening of conversation was planned with the renowned artist Peter Doig and immediately booked myself a seat.

The evening did not disappoint despite the sudden monsoon type drenching I received on my way down to the Woodlane campus. The easy conversation between curator Matthew Higgs, (director of the influential alternative art space White Columns in New York) and former colleague Peter flowed effortlessly and provided a unique insight into Peter’s career.

The two former RCA colleagues have made a special visit to Cornwall’s shores to curate an exhibition in St Just at the Jackson Foundation Gallery featuring the Afro Caribbean artist Denzel Forrester. The evening led us through Peters last thirty years as an artist and being in London at the time of the YBA movement in the 1990’s. Noted for their shock tactics, use of throwaway materials and oppositional and entrepreneurial attitude the YBA group of visual artists received an abundance of media coverage.

As an artist practising at the same time Peter’s own work was quickly recognised and he was nominated for the Turner prize in 1994 after some early exhibitions at The Whitechapel Art Gallery. His time at the played an influential factor in bringing his work into the public eye.

Peter lived in London for 30 years and moved to Trinidad in 2002 after which the Tate Britain held a retrospective of his work in 2008. Born in Scotland but a resident of Canada and Trinidad for most of his childhood both have had an influential effect on his work.

In 2007, White Canoe set a record for the highest price for a piece sold by a living European artist. This 11 million price tag was surpassed by Doig’s enchanting piece Swamped,  which went to a new owner for 26 million, then again last year when  “Rosedale,” of a Toronto snowfall,went to auction and was sold to a telephone bidder for 28 million.

Peter’s visit to Cornwall is noteworthy not only to celebrate his artistic achievements but also for his involvement in the curation and promotion of Denzel Forrester’s work in St Just. From Trench Town to Porthtowan will be on show from May 26 – June 23rd, 2018.

The exhibition presents a career-spanning collection of Denzel’s large-scale paintings which explore a diverse range of themes from sewing bags with his mother to the world of London’s dub reggae clubs.


Sketch diary

Volunteer Denise Stracey has been keeping a sketch diary of exhibition locations she’s been visiting as part of her work with Groundwork.

IMG_1315 Pictured here is the view over Helston from CAST.

“A view I have never noted before and a new take on Helston”,  Denise writes, noted in her time invigilating the “staggeringly beautiful and brutal” Steve McQueen exhibition.


A scene from National Trust Godolphin, where Christina Mackie’s installation Judges II is displayed.

Denise describes this moment of calm in a busy day – “a beautiful warm spring day at Godolphin house with the heavy scent of abundant bluebells wafting in the air. Peering through the window from the Kings Room and Christina Mackie’s exhibition, my eyes traced the bold branches of the magnolia now having shed their waxy blooms and heavily hung with stout, fresh green foliage.”


A sense of place

Groundwork intern Laura Tunbull on Simon Starling and Semiconductor’s films showing at Goonhilly Earth Station on The Lizard.


From May to September this year, historic buildings, beaches and old industrial sites, to name only a few of the special and atmospheric locations, will provide the backdrop for a series of Groundwork exhibitions. I grew up in a family where making art and being part of a creative community was considered really important, but the regimented, whitewashed galleries we were taken to often made art seem remote and unrelatable. The Groundwork project challenges this conventional way of presenting art. Simon Starling and Semiconductor’s pieces of work both find a home in the Old Battery Store at Goonhilly Earth Station, a site announced by the giant satellite dishes that appear on the long stretch of road as you drive from Helston onto the Lizard Peninsula, looming over the moor  – ‘that forest of satellites, where the future ideas of us are mocking you’, as Rachael Allen describes it in her poem ‘Goonhilly’. I’ve driven past these satellite dishes countless times; they are etched into the journey I make a few times a month to visit my grandma. She is in a care home, at the far end of the Lizard, her memories and means of communication slowly being eroded by dementia. Expressionless and lost in her wingback armchair, she reminds me of those satellite dishes, silent and protruding on the landscape. Their sky-angled white domes reach out for signs, messages, a new language. This location, imbued with personal and social meaning, reminds me how powerful our sense of place can be, how many memories and feelings we imprint onto a building, a certain stretch of road, a field of mute satellite dishes. I think this is what makes the Groundwork programme so special. Art appearing in places already inscribed with memories and associations. And whether these additions seem to fit easily into a space or whether the art seems out of place or alien in its new environment, Groundwork is adding layers into landscapes that are always waiting to be reshaped by new meaning.


Written by Groundwork intern Laura Turnbull

Steve McQueen, CAST

Groundwork volunteer Sam Stone on Steve McQueen’s films showing at CAST in Helston. Visit Sam’s website to read more of her articles.


Steve McQueen – Gravesend

Gravesend (2007), a mesmerising film by Steve McQueen, was the second exhibition I recently had the opportunity to be involved with as part of the Groundwork summer programme.

Screened in a specially adapted room within the nearly renovated CAST building in Helston, this film by the acclaimed Steve McQueen is an all-immersive experience. The giant high-quality screen dominates the end of the room and showcases Gravesend perfectly. Reinforced by the booming surround sound, the twenty-five-minute experience demands your full attention as it makes the viewer shudder with the acoustic vibration.

An acclaimed director of feature films such as 12 Years a Slave, Hunger and Shame, Steve McQueen is also a renowned British artist who specialises in the moving image. Steve McQueen’s Turner Prize-winning talent certainly shines through on screen. The editing, pace, colour and sound engage your senses and play with your emotions.

The mining and refining process of Coltan, a black mineral used in vital components of electronics including mobile phones and laptops, is the focus of  Gravesend.  Whilst McQueen’s minute-long second piece in the exhibition, Unexploded (2007) is his celluloid reaction to a crater left by an unexploded bomb in Basra, filmed during his time as a war artist in Iraq.

Both films are FREE to experience until the 3rd June at the CAST building in Helston, Cornwall.


Christina Mackie – Judges II

Some thoughts about Christina Mackie’s installation at Godolphin National Trust, written by Groundwork volunteer Sam Stone. Visit Sam’s website to read more of her articles.

 Christina Mackie – Judges II


This week marked the opening of Christina Mackie’s intriguing contemporary sculptural installation to the visitors of Godolphin House, Helston.

Housed in the magnificent Kings room, the installation has the luxury of commanding the complete space, which has been specially adapted for the exhibition. Part of the Groundwork Art programme for the summer, visitors to Godolphin have the opportunity to absorb Christina’s complex collection of work at their leisure even when the house is not open to the public.

Fired at the same temperatures that rock is transformed into magma, Christina’s sculptural ceramic pieces which dominate the installation are a response to an extinct volcano in New South Wales, Australia. Also combined with the installation both on top and underneath the carefully planned trestle tables are various other elements which invite visitors to explore Christina’s theme. Piles of mineral sand are funnelled and poured between objects and minerals are incorporated into paintings as pigments and as glazes on the ceramic pieces.

davTwo video works also play out silently underneath the tables.
Fall force, a 3D wireframe animation deals with the theme of time and grinding down and flowing away of human endeavour.

Planet, considers the theme of landscape, earth’s characteristics and forces being as visible in a lump of mineral as in the whole landscape considers the theme of landscape, earth’s characteristics and forces being as visible in a lump of mineral as in the whole landscape, the mechanism of crystals being present in both scales and the beauty of the earth.

Christina Mackie is an internationally celebrated artist, best known for her composite sculptural installations, which unite disparate elements in a state of temporary synthesis. Born in England in the mid-1950’s, she was raised in Canada but resettled back in London in the 1980s.

Her amazing body of work Judges II, has been lent by the Arts Council and brought to Cornish shores by the Groundworks programme with the support of CAST,  Kestle Barton, Tate St Ivesand Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange.  The unique setting for this a rarely viewed installation has been kindly provided by The National Trust.

Christina’s piece will be on show in the Kings Room, Goldophin House, Helston, Cornwall until the 24th June.