Discover Beautiful Sculptures on the Cornish Coast

No-one who visits any part of the Cornish coast can help noticing the things that have inspired artists and writers for centuries: the ever changing colour and quality of the light, the interplay of sky and water, the sheer power and magic of nature on display. And, of course, if they do stop to think about the connection between these stunning vistas and artists, and the art they produce, they are most likely to think of seascapes and landscapes and even skyscapes.


But the sea in Cornwall is about much more than what you can look at, exceptional as that is. It is woven into Cornish life and Cornish history in a fundamentally physical way. From fishing to maritime trading and from smuggling to gathering seaweed and flotsam from the sands, the sea here is about what you can touch, what you bring from the water or what the water brings to you. So it is hardly surprising that it gives birth not just to art on paper or canvass, but to three dimensional, physical art, to things that are meant to be touched as well as seen, even things that are meant to be used and not just admired.


In the many galleries you will find across Cornwall you will find objects created from Cornish stone, which is found and quarried further inland as well as ending up on our beaches, or using coastal materials, driftwood, metal, glass, pebbles, shell, even plastic and sometimes a combination of some of these.


You will see sculptures and installations, purely decorative or whimsical objects and items of furniture. The immediacy of this art, its tactile as well as visual aesthetic, captures something of the earthy reality of this sublimely lovely coastline and translates that reality into three dimensional objects.


It’s well worth seeking out and going to see examples of this kind of ‘translation’ and in this part of the world, you don’t have to go too far! At the St Mawes gallery you will find sculptures, collages, installations and furniture created from driftwood, stones and ‘stranded items’ by Alvaro Tamarit. A little more tangentially, the lovely sculptures of Richard Holliday and Lawrence Murley are often crafted from Cornish stone. (Murley works with Cornish serpentine by choice.)

alvaro tarmarit
lawrence murley

Three dimensional art has a very different presence from a two dimensional piece. It affects both the mind and the senses differently and, of course, that is the whole point. We ‘see’ with more than our eyes. When a piece of physical art makes you want to reach out and touch, or hold or stroke it, (as small children will try to do with any physical object which appeals to them), then you are encountering art just as much as when you stop and look at a painting or drawing that has caught your attention.


In fact, there is something more direct and immediate about the sense of connection to an object that you can touch or even use. When you stand in front of a painting that inspires you, it can take you out of yourself and out of the world for a moment. When you stand beside a solid object that affects you in strongly, it as if the ‘otherworldly’ had landed beside you.


There is another aspect to the translation of beach finds into works of art, the environmental aspect. Artists’ use of debris washed onto the Cornish beaches is not only providing new creative expression, it is helping to focus attention on the problems of waste on the shorelines, waste that is both ugly and dangerous for wildlife, as well as to inspire and even finance practical cleanup projects. But that, as they say, is another story...