8 April 2014

The Lost World of Norman Cornish at Kings Place Gallery

Possibly the best thing about working in Kings Place is being in the same building as Kings Place Gallery. I like to pop down there during a break and I have been seriously impressed by several of their exhibitions. Including this one.

Norman Cornish worked as a coal miner in a small village in County Durham and he painted what he saw around him. The exhibition was called "The Lost World of Norman Cornish" because that world been lost with the closure of the mines.

It was a hard world with the miners walking miles to the local pit to work in cramped conditions underground and getting little money for their efforts. And while this hardness comes through so does the character and community. This is a world now viewed through grey-tinted glasses but at that time it was just how things were.



I had seen one of the pictures of coalminers walking to work before (there were several similar pictures in the exhibition) but I cannot recall now where that was, it could have been a gallery, a magazine or a website. However, it did make an impression at the time and that is a good thing.

There were a few pictures of inside the coal mine too including this one of men climbing the gantry at the pit-head and some of men working underground.

Another common theme in Cornish's work was the pub where the men went in the evening. These shared some of the characteristics of the men at work pictures with groups of identically dressed men in long coats and caps usually viewed from behind. The impression was given that the pubs were as cramped as the mines, and the possibly were.

Artistically as well as compositionally the pub scenes looked much like the work scenes with broad shapes in browns and greys and that is the main reason that I have not included an example of one of them.

The third set of pictures were quite different. These were scenes in and around the village that showed people going about their normal business. These were smaller pictures (A4ish) done in watercolour.

There was more actual colour in them too, though I have chosen one of the least colourful examples as it is the one that I liked the most. At least the woman has a blue headscarf that almost makes my point.

The final set of pictures were rough portraits and sketches of people.

It was a large exhibition spread over all of Level -1 with a little overspill on to Level -2 and I liked everything in it. I walked around it twice before heading outside to continue my lunch break.

I think that this was my favourite exhibition at Kings Place Gallery so far. I have really enjoyed some of the others, particularly ├śrnulf Opdahl, but I prefer Norman Cornish because of the sense of humanity that they exude. These are pictures of real people in real places.

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