Jessica Warboys, Tate St Ives



Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2015, Jessica Warboys via

Warboys made these paintings in separate locations and they relate not only to those locations but (in the way they hang) to the spaces they have been exhibited in. The canvases are soaked by the sea, mineral pigments are applied by a combination of the sea’s own movement and the dragging and folding of the canvas by the artist.

*The above painting is titled Sea Painting, Dunwich (Suffolk) both on the Tate official postcard and website for this exhibition, however the paintings on display at Tate St Ives were painted at Zennor, near St Ives. Photographs were not allowed at Tate St Ives and I can’t find any online.


Jessica Warboys, production still via

The idea of this group of paintings and the process by which they were made excites me more than the works themselves. I do get a sense of the rocks of the far west of Cornwall: the rocks, lichen and gorse, but not the sea itself, though the sea of course has made the rocks, lichen and gorse what they are, and put them in their place. But perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for the crashing waves on these canvases. Maybe I should see them as a recording of what the sea has done to the land, printed on to blank canvas.  Some seem to work much better than others. Some of the St Ives panels felt quite tame to me, quite empty, while some I’ve seen online are more full.

Interestingly, Jessica Warboys herself says that she is “… not concerned with how the tableau looks or appears as I make a sea painting, but with the result or record of the process.” (Warboys, (2017)). In the British Art Show 8’s own video she explains that in the making she is “trying not to compose”  and though she describes the result as an “immediate and undirected print of the place” admits that as she does more of these works she gets more of a feel of how the pigment will settle on the canvas. 

I love the scale of these pieces, and the material they’ve been painted on. I would like to have been able to touch and smell them for the sea but they were for looking only. Despite the space they manage to take up in the curved entrance of Tate St Ives I couldn’t help but find them a little pale and empty. The boldness of the Tate building itself and the proximity of the sea is a tough act to stand next to. Probably better to work with it than to try and compete, as I felt these canvases were trying to do by nature of their very size.


Warboys, (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Jessica Warboys Sea Paintings (2015-16) at BAS8. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

Tate. (2017). Jessica Warboys – Exhibition at Tate St Ives | Tate. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Sep. 2017].

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