Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens.
Natural light is made up of three elements, direct light from the sun, light diffused through clouds and mist, and reflected light. The balance of these elements influences the feel of a place - its overall tone, and glow. It is Cornwall’s blend of sun and sea that makes the light here perfect for artists. The further West you go, the thinner the Cornish peninsula becomes - you are soon surrounded by the sea on two fronts - with reflected light bouncing off the water and into the sky.
Bright with sunlight and blue-tones from the sea, places like Newlyn, Penzance and St Ives have a glow that has inspired artists from Turner (the painter of light himself) to Hepworth, Rothko to Gabo. The Newlyn, and St Ives Schools produced incredible bodies of work, with light featuring heavily in paint, but some more contemporary artists have used Cornwall’s light in unexpected ways to create work that harnesses its beauty.
Tucked away on the back road between Penzance and Crowlas, Tremenheere Sculpture Garden sits in a little wooded valley looking out over the bay. It features work from some of the most important sculptors in the world, including James Turrell, Richard Long, David Page among many others. Walking through the woods, there is incredible work at every step - but going back to the theme of light, none capture it quite as atmospherically as James Turrell.
As the curator of the Newlyn Art Gallery, Mum was fortunate enough to have worked with James, and had the opportunity to introduce him to Neil at Tremenheere. The ongoing friendship between Neil and James has been responsible for some of Cornwall’s most important pieces of art - and is the reason that West Cornwall is home to two of Turrell’s pieces.
Entering his sky-space ‘Tewlwolow Kernow’ (twilight Cornwall) through the sheltered and intimate tunnel, the minimalist surroundings feel a world away from the sub-tropical gardens around it. The large white room, atmospheric and quiet, has a circular void in the ceiling revealing the sky. Depending on the time of day, or the weather the view from the top changes - but the feeling of serenity, and connection to the work remains.
Gazing upwards, there is no distraction to the sky - the work encourages you to focus and view it in a completely new way. Turrell said that his work is “more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing”. He creates an atmosphere through the organic circular space, and by trapping light - produces a perfect way to appreciate the unique tone of light found only in Cornwall.
His other work at Tremenheere is an ‘aqua obscura’. Inside a disused water tank, a moving image of the canopy above is projected the wall. In total darkness, it takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust, but once the image is visible it creates beautifully haunting work.
By harnessing light - and encouraging the viewer to feel it in a completely different way, Turrell has continued the legacy of earlier artists who were fascinated by light. He removes anything that distracts from the light of the sky, and in doing so encourages you to find your own meaning in his work.
If you are coming down to Cornwall, I couldn’t recommend visiting Tremenheere enough. They have recently built an indoor gallery space to accompany the gardens, and their restaurant is a favourite for many locals. They hold weddings in the gardens too, so if you are planning a wedding in Cornwall, I can’t think of somewhere more atmospheric than the Skyspace at Tremenheere.