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12Dec2012

'West' Works old and new from Elizabeth Hunter

Elizabeth Hunter  was born in Bristol in 1935.  She studied art at the West of England College of Art under Robert Hurdle, George Sweet and Paul Feiler.  She went on to the Slade (where she won the major drawing prize) and was taught by William Coldstream and Lucian Freud.  Moving down to Cornwall in the 1960’s she was the curator of the Newlyn Art Gallery,  returning again to live in Penzance in 2002.

Elizabeth’s Hunter’s early memories are of her grandfather who made beautiful shoes.  A cobbler, he was also a leading light  of the Theosophical Society.   Elizabeth recalls a black sphinx by her grandfather’s bed and a portrait of Madame Blavatsky above the fireplace.  He kept a telescope on the roof and was a keen astronomer.  Her father had a shop in the old Bristol arcade – before it was bombed.  He was also a musician and played the cello and piano, viola and organ while Elizabeth’s mother wrote plays.  

With her own childhood experiences rooted in the ordinary and extraordinary  world of artisans, mystics, shop keepers and artists,  it is perhaps not surprising that  the work of  printer, painter and poet  William Blake is  one of Elizabeth Hunter’s most powerful inspirations.    Like Blake,  Elizabeth Hunter’s work combines a visionary view of the universe – but one firmly rooted in the familiar.  Elizabeth locates many of her mystical compositions in the bare hillsides and rocky inlets of her adopted Cornwall.   Here in Cornwall’s ancient landscapes, Persephone descends, Echo pines for Narcissus while Mary of Egypt or the Holy Family itself can be found sheltering amongst the rocky slopes and abandoned tin mines.    

“Strange magnetic forces, undercurrents and mystery can resonate with my mythologies”, writes Elizabeth Hunter.  “Orpheus can wander in West Penwith, wild women can sit by tempestuous seas and the enduring themes of relationships between men and women can be played out on misty early morning walks”

Conflating landscape and archetypes, Elizabeth Hunter seems to be asking the same timeless question as Blake:  And did those feet, in Ancient Times walk upon England’s pastures green? .

Combined with her superb technical skills, distinct colours and her endlessly fecund unconscious, Elizabeth Hunter’s visionary work continues to present the “genuine strain of true poetry” that the art critic Eric Newton described in a review in the Guardian back in 1959.  

 

 

 

 

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