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SS Blue Jacket

Beryl Cook / Peter Lanyon / Shana Moulton / Edward Stein / Lucy Stein/ Merlin James / Robert Lenkiewicz / Simon Bayliss / Simon Fujiwara

31 Oct – 17 Nov 2013


Left at the helm, long after the Captain of SS Blue Jacket had retired to his wife below deck, the First Mate became infatuated by an arousing light at sea. In ballast, this tramp was steaming from Plymouth to Cardiff on a clear night in Winter 1989. A tremendous crash! And near midnight she was wrecked, stuck fast on rocks. The Captain stormed on deck to find his listing ship floodlight by a towering lighthouse.

Why the Captain’s Mate honed in on this gigantic illuminated phallus has remained a mystery. Was he mesmerised by symbolic lust, instinctively steering her in? The Blue Jacket sat perched in this ludicrous position at Longships Lighthouse at Lands End for over a year.

Painters Lucy Stein and Simon Bayliss became friends whilst living on the West Coast of Ireland, and both possess strong ties to the South West of England. Their ongoing conversation about art which plumbs the depths, baring an artist’s psyche and heritage, has given way to this exhibition. An anchor for thought has been their erotically charged interpretation of this curious – one could say fishy – local tale. The bizarre but tender account of SS Blue Jacket aptly describes the romantic struggle they experience as painters, when instinctively pursuing an inevitable image.

The emphasis within this multi-generational exhibition is painting; the sea and the West Country coast serve as a grand backdrop or animistic force behind the artists’ practices. Art-world notions of insider or outsider, high or low, old or new, have been eroded in the tidal-wash, replaced by an atavistic engagement with sexuality, the genius loci (spirit of place), and the personal mythologies of the artists involved.