A chance encounter with the untrained fisherman-painter Alfred Wallis in 1928 was to shape not only the work of Ben Nicholson, but that of a whole school of 20th-century British artists.
To those trained in the formal methods of representation, Wallis's naïve style and instinctive techniques were a revelation. It is this influence, and the professional appropriation of these methods, that forms the focus of this exhibition. While Nicholson offered Wallis a platform and an audience for his works, Wallis's stormy seas and images of the everyday encouraged Nicholson to rethink the founding principles of his art.Rooted in the landscapes of his St Ives home, Wallis's art is a vivid celebration of his surroundings, providing company and consolation after the death of his wife. Unfettered by convention, the practical Wallis recycled everyday objects " old cardboard boxes, envelopes " as canvases, using the grain of the material and its architecture to shape his painting. This dialogue and tension between subject, canvas and form was to prove a key concern for Modernist artists, and was consciously explored by Nicholson in his work of the 1930s and 40s.