Darkness and Light – a day and an evening at PZ Gallery to conclude the tour. 25/26 July 2017


Here we are back in Penzance showing at the PZ Gallery, a space well suited for the task of displaying our richly diverse material. We have been able to lay out the many narratives and themes of the two commissions and our own related studio work with great clarity. We have hung Jesse’s series of portraits, Assembly, in a long procession leading away from the daylight into a space we lit dramatically bringing out the bright highlights of the copper on which they are painted. The opposite end of the gallery is all strong daylight, perfect for revealing the subtle layered depths in Bernard’s paintings and allowing his colours to sing out.

Come the evening PZ Gallery was alive with a buzz of people for our final social opportunity to show and talk about it all,  a fitting conclusion to the tour and the commissions. A huge thank you to all who came, for your enthusiasm and lively conversations around the work and it’s themes.

Thank you to all the amazing people we have met and worked with over the last few years for your energy, enthusiasm and support and to all those who have come along and taken part in the conversation. BI & JLS 

Monday the 24th? We must be in Liskeard!

Here we are again in the Liskerrett Community Centre, scene of two memorable events. The Travelogue Kernow workshop in 2013 linked up to Liskeard’s Vital Spark festival and the result was a mad, full on printmaking extravaganza, then last year for Picturing the Mines we made in a day, a volcanic explosion of a painting [see image above]; measuring 3m, on black paper, with a little help from artist Matt Bennington, Falmouth students and members of the public.


Travelogue Kernow – Liskeard [copper plate etching, relief & intaglio prints on black Somerset paper]

Thanks once again to Jenny Foster who runs the Liskerrett Community Centre with such energy and good humour for her warm welcome, all her help today and on our previous visits.

We had a visit from Mayor Christina Whitty, which was very nice:


Jenny Foster, Mayor Christina Whitty and Bernard pose for the cameras.


Christina showed great interest in all the exhibits, especially the Travelogue Kernow print.  

Other distinguished visitors today included Liskeard Councillor Sue Pike and Launceston Councillor Val Budgen-Cawsey. Louis Taylor who did so much to facilitate Travelogue Kernow as part of Liskeard’s 2013 Vital Spark Festival dropped in; great to see her again and chat to her about the commissions and to hear about ‘Dark Skies’ which she is curating at the moment.

  We drew the curtains to create a dark cave in the hall



Thanks for bringing it back home.

Inspirational, lovely exhibition, especially like the portraits on copper, terrific lots of talent – Kelly

What a treat – Claire

Fantastic work, thank you – Carol and family that all made prints with us in 2013

Bernard Irwin – paintings from the studio 2017

During late 2015 into spring 2016 I worked on a small painting called Slow Motion Blackbird. Against a grey background, with a blush of red beneath it, bright colours sing out from behind a central black form, flowing from top to bottom of the canvas. Amongst the many impressions and ideas that formed this painting is the lyrical stream of notes that a blackbird sings from the tree outside my studio; others are a contemporary jazz piece and Orpheus, descending into Hades, attempting with the song of his lyre to return with Eurydice back to the light and life.

Slow Motion Blackbird - study

As I worked on this painting I was travelling around the mining world heritage sites of West Devon & Cornwall, immersing myself in their landscapes, buildings, histories and geology. The painting and its themes, though originating in other narratives, became closely bound up with those experiences. It established a path along which the sights and sounds and shapes of the mines materialised in the paintings as graphic colour in layers of textured darkness and light.

The impenetrable black below the grass and the brightness of the tin & copper that emerged into the light; the unexpected brightness of colour in the minerals; the bright flowering of colour in the gardens of the big estates; a line of brightly coloured washing, blowing in the wind one grey misty morning driving up through Cornwall’s post-industrial landscape; colour as treasure and hopeful renewal. Also lamentation, a passing culture, lost souls.

The Paintings:

Moving through the mining landscapes over the last 18 months I have often been filled with wonder at the extraordinary visual richness and the quite unexpected vividness of colour. I make paintings, abstract images arising out of my experience; things seen, heard & felt. Light, colour, sound; the absence of light; silence; the silence of painting. In painting, to move away from white into colour, is to move toward black. Colour won like ore from the dark. Song wings into the air, the blackbird sings.



Some impressions:

Spring at Devon Great Consols; spoil from arsenic workings thrusts out from the hillside into the valley – almost devoid of plant growth even after the best part of one hundred years – huge, monolithic, red – spilled up from the earth, thrust out into the vivid new greens of the spring countryside.

A sparkle of green around the entrance to an adit sharply set against the sand of the beach colouring the sand a complimentary orange.

Marriott’s shaft – grids, structures and brickwork a barrier to the eye as I try to see into the depths. Darkness a barrier to seeing.

The wholly unexpected pleasure of colour and structure, mineral samples dancing in the sunshine on the windowsills of the Miners and Mechanics Institute, St. Agnes.

The yellows and oranges of the screes at St Agnes; turn over the grey green lichen covered stones and there expose the bright yellow ochre of iron.

At the entrance to the canal tunnel that leads through the hill to Morwellham quay; genteel architecture, bright greens of moss in the gloomy dankness, sparks of gold & copper autumn beech leaves; then the shock of plunging blackness right there beside you, the gaping maw of an incline shaft, entrance to Hades.

Making ‘Assembly’ – 20 Images on Copper by Jesse Leroy Smith


This year both Bernard and I we were awarded Arts council funding to each make a body of work reflecting on the wealth of collaboration, research and creativity arising from ‘Picturing the Mines’ and to gather all its momentum into a touring exhibition.

With so many themes percolating through my recollections, I kept thinking about all the characters that had to co -exist and work together. From the the hierarchies of class to the methodist congregations, they all clashed, bonded and shaped each other but like the mining process itself.

In the town halls and civic venues we exhibited in, there are the grand but sombre portraits of distinguished gentlemen such patrons, lords and politicians and they colour how we recall the past. So I hoped to gather figures together that interweave the legacies of mining and suggest an alternative ‘gallery’.

I also wanted to echo the inspiring camaraderie and generosity of spirit of those we worked with last year. Just some of them include the pastors at Gweenap pit, artists and mining experts, PZ conservation trainees, volunteers, musicians and writers, cornwall archivers, the school teachers and the fantastic children that really were the vital energy and inspiration behind our workshops.

At one workshop we did at St Agnes, artists, the public and schoolchildren made etchings of crystals, kindly brought in by Calum Beeson from the School on Mining. When he unwrapped them, there was this exhilarating awe from us all at their sheer unique beauty. We were all like children and I also wanted to refer somehow to that experience.

I began to select iconic individuals that might represent the historical communities such as mine workers to owners, campaigners, preachers, disaster fatalities, bal maidens, poets, pit ponies and intersected these with images of unearthed gems.

I invited artists and students to my studio for feedback and after much thrashing around with the paintings I could see the images were all pursuing diverse painterly approaches and I wanted them to read as one artwork. I then decided to sand them away completely leaving the copper tarnished like a vinyl record with endless scratches of barely discernible colours.

I would have liked to leave these minimalist ‘tablets’ but now considered how I might consistently render them all again. In frustration I described features with my oily hands and realised this was the most appropriate way to shape each portrait and the crystals became more abstract and could refer to skulls, hearts, rock faces or brutal mining processes. By just using hands,blades, power tools and glazes of milky turps I could work on them all simultaneously.

This gestural approach helped as I was seeking to reflect the tensions, trauma’s and tenacity that animated each individual and shape the organic spectacle of crystals.

I hope they convey a remarkable collaborative project that celebrated human qualities that through time make us remembered.


Helston: we were here with Travelogue Kernow at the Folk Museum in February 2013; Picturing the Mines at CAST in 2016 and now we’re back with the full works in 2017

We’re back in the school assembly room at CAST, a room with many community memories, a space with an atmosphere in which the array of works from our two commissions can resonate.

The Picturing the Mines work is no longer extant, the huge and seemingly substantial piece was actually ephemeral and only existed for a day being more about the journey than the destination as we explored our sense of how the mining had scarred the landscape over generations and though the process of collage feel it’s slow recovery in the present.


In contrast Travelogue Kernow brought people together to picture their town past & present in the wonderful Folk Museum and ultimately resulted in a huge community print which we can now reveal for the first time in the town it was conceived.


We had lots of help from old hands: artists Jo Clarkson, Lindsey Morgan-Lundie & Paula Bolton who contributed so much to Picturing the Mines in 2016; also fresh faces: artists Pip Bryson and Yolanda Armstrong; along with our very own Saskia Halliday and Rhea Evers; a big thank you to all of you and also to CAST and all the artists who visited us for their support.

This is an innovative way to display art and to interact with the local community in a meaningful way, well done. – Brighton based artist Geoff Hands

Love the collaborative printmaking.

Great to see this exhibition collaboration between people and areas in cornwall , many stories to be told, thank you. – Jane

I would be very keen to help out with future projects; I love the show and your work. – Ella Falmouth student


Monday the 10th and we’re in Wadebridge

Our visit here to Wadebridge Town Hall in 2013 with the Travelogue Kernow print studio was a very lively affair with young and old enthusiastically taking part. It led to the most colourful of the travelogues; something to do with all those kids?

We had such a good time back then and it is great to revisit, show the print to the town and so much else achieved with Picturing the Mines in the intervening years.


I’m so pleased I was emailed by a fellow artist and told about this exhibition. Mining is my heritage and I am very impressed by the work here and how its has been so well displayed.
Claire Heatley


Just a visitor passing through, glad to have has this chance to see what was ado, my gosh! so gorgeous! and especially cos’ people had a part and owned it too.                               Brian


Wonderful exhibition and comprehensive explanations                                                    A Retallick

Diverse range and cohesiveness.                                                                                           Toby


Many thanks to volunteers: artist Lindsey Morgan -Lundie; Terry Binns from PZ Conservation & Saskia Halliday.

Lovely to see familiar faces including Wadebridge artist Tracey Hunter and family who were so supportive & generous with their time when we were here in 2013 with with Travelogue Kernow; thank you.


Day two, Tavistock Town Hall

A great breakfast in Tavistock set us up for day two. The town hall is amazing but it’s impressive architecture made the task of setting out the show a challenge. That said, with a little imagination, the scale of the place allowed us to show all the work to great advantage and welcome Lead teacher Mr Armitage & 30 Year 4 children from Tavistock Primary School to a really dynamic and fun drawing session, looking at the work on show and using PZ Conservation trainee Rhea Evers’ folded paper ‘books’.


“This place is awesome”

“Thanks you for the art lesson”

‘You are the best”

Another great day with lots of good conversation with visitors around the art & the mining:

“An interesting variety of interpretations, and interested in the book building tools”

“Lovely exhibition, and well explained by artists”

“What a buzz – energy, ideas and artwork”

“Excellent work”

“Please contact me if you would like to collaborate in this area”

Thank you to volunteers John and Sally Melling, Pat Fuzzard, and Tom Greaves who generously shared his local knowledge of mining & geology today and on our previous visit to Tavistock with Picturing the Mines in 2017.

Travelogue Kernow Print returns to Launceston with Picturing the Mines on tour.

We brought Travelogue Kernow here to the Launceston Town Hall on Friday 22nd & Saturday 23rd February 2013. In contrast to today’s sunshine and heat we had a flurry of snow in the air back then! It’s great to be back with a cornucopia of artworks that have come out of the commissions Travelogue Kernow and Picturing the Mines in the intervening years.

As then we have a PZ Conservation trainee with us, Rhea Evers. Today Rhea brought blank concertina folded paper for the schools who visited us; there was some very enthusiastic and colourful drawing underway aided and abetted by Rhea, Saskia Halliday & Jesse.


Windmill Hill Academy Year 5 came with lead teacher Nicky Osborne &


St. Catherine’s School Year 2 with lead teacher Miss Davey.



We also had a visit from the mayor – Councillor Margaret Young. Margaret was really impressed at how the TK print captured the character of the town and so we are discussing how the image can be used as part of their new visitor experience! 

A big thank you to all who came along during the day and to Rhea, Sakia and Terry Binns who worked hard over a long day from unloading in the morning to reloading the van in the evening!


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