Monday, 2 July 2012

Norah Pearse: Splash!

If the British are not depressed by the rain, they are alarmed by the sea. Splash by the Exmouth artist, Norah Pearse, has both elements but transformed for comic effect. The falling wave and the puddles of sea-water are obviously literal in an arch comic-book fashion. It seems very thirties the way she tries and gets away with it, all with the intention of capturing one of those insouciant pastimes the British go in for along the sea-front. I have done it many times. She has taken the gusto of the Grosvenor School and subtracted the modernist artistry. This is Recording Britain for the fun of it and not as part of a commission.

This little linocut also records another of my homes. I used to have a flat no more than two ot three hundred metres from this sea-wall. I couldn't see the Channel because of the houses in the way but the sails of yachts would slip by surprisingly close. (The sea comes right in at that point - hence the splashes).


It's a shame I couldn't find a better image for Of tigers, watched by children. It is very hard to judge it by this hopeless monitor image. Pearse trained at Exeter School of Art before going on to teach, but so far as I can make out only began to make her handful of colour woodcuts and colour linocuts when she reached her late forties. But you can see here, the emphasis is on leisure and that she has learned the lessons of the Grosvenor School and taken a look at popular activities and dumped genre. This is what I like about her. She shows us the places she knows and likes but doesn't over-emphasise them. I also like her sense of humour, and her sense of irony, and the way she plays off the raw against the tame.


  1. A perfect summation on an artist I have never heard of, and with only those two prints to base it on. There is a kind of naive talent there, without being concerned with technique, artistry or externalized ideology. She has captured a moment and a time, with a technique very much of the time and the moment.

    I remember visiting Weymouth in the dead of winter, twenty years ago, and the town was basically empty except for the seawall and the pier for the boats to Jersey, which was lined with people looking out into the gloom. Being a new-worlder myself, I found it to be the most exceptionally odd thing. The next day, the same thing. No traffic, or cars or people wandering in front of shops. Just drizzling rain, wind and rain but people wandering along insouciantly on the waterfront with umbrellas. I stayed there for a couple of weeks, and after my initial astonishment subsided, I appreciated the pleasure in a past-time that costs nothing; takes nothing and simply requires people to walk and observe.

    Observation is one of the key aspects of art, and perhaps that is why so many of the British artists have it.


  2. It's very easy to underestimate the British and their downbeat, dogged ways. I do it all the time. As did Napolean.

    What you say here is uncannily to the point. There is a watercolour by Pearse which describes almost exactly your Weymouth experience. You should start a blog.

  3. Me and my spookily prescient for a blog, I couldn't possibly.

  4. I noticed that a ebay listing has gone live with a picture od "Ladies Surfing" by this artist which I have not seen before

  5. Many thanks for that.

    There is a more recent post about Pearse. Just google 'The linocuts of Norah Pearse'. I did mention the surfing image but the one I found was too small to be of use.