Tresco art collection: paintings in motion
Adorning the walls of every Tresco cottage are vibrant and eclectic pieces of art. Maintaining the art collection, choosing where each piece is hung, and keeping track of new additions is Anna Parkes
Adorning the walls of every Tresco cottage are vibrant and eclectic pieces of art. Each painting and canvas is part of Robert and Lucy Dorrien-Smith’s Tresco art collection which they have been adding to and refining for many years, and is housed at the New Inn, Hell Bay, across 100 cottages and also within lots of the public spaces on Tresco. Maintaining each and every piece, choosing where art is hung, and keeping track of new additions is Anna Parkes.
Usually found in Gallery Tresco on the seafront overlooking New Grimsby, Anna is very much part of the island furniture and has been responsible for the Art Collection for a long time. However, this winter she was elsewhere.
“This year was quite an exceptional year” says Anna. “It came about – primarily – because we inherited a whole load of art when the New Inn was refurbished and the bedrooms reconfigured last year. Art that had previously been on the walls there didn’t fit in so it went into store.”
Subsequently, this past winter, Anna heard from Hell Bay regarding a few paintings that needed repairing. She took it as an opportunity to hop on a boat to Bryher and set about refreshing some of the art there. “Over two days we did the entirety of Hell Bay where we swapped things in and swapped things out. A lot of these paintings were very old and needed repairs so we would take them out and then, from the collection we had, it was about finding what fit in. That was the start of the domino effect.”
Whilst change was afoot on Bryher, the same can be said for Tresco. This winter, 6 cottages – Maiden Bower, Merrick, Mincarlo, Kittiwake, Puffin and Tern - were totally transformed and Anna and her art were instrumental in their final look. The renovations taking place on island – and upcoming cottage photoshoots - also made for the perfect opportunity to update the art in other cottages too.
“Normally, in the winter time I just try and get into the cottages where we’ve had feedback to say ‘this has faded' or ‘we’ve noticed a mark’, whereas this was a massive overhaul that I’ve never undergone before.”
Despite the mammoth task in front of them, Anna – and her sidekick Mel – loved it. Although initially ‘borrowing Mel from the shop for a day’, it quickly became clear that the pair were the perfect team and she stuck around for the whole project; “it’s been very rewarding for us and we’ve had great fun,” says Anna.
Anna and Mel considered each and every hang in great detail and, considering that some of our cottages are home to around 20 paintings, this was no mean feat! “What we are talking about is art for interiors based around an existing art collection. Therefore, we were going into cottages and looking at what curtains there were and the shade of the sofa, and thinking what do we have that is going to tone in with this and compliment. It’s not always making the painting the focal point,” and it was a very dynamic - and constantly changing! - process.
Mel chimes in saying: “Anna would go home at night and think about everything we’d done only to come in the next day and say right Mel, we’re going to move this painting around and take that one there and replace it with this one from a different cottage. It got to the point where I said to Anna: you’re not allowed to go home because the next day we’ve got to do it all over again!”
Anna goes on to say: “I know these paintings as if they’re children and am lucky that I can recount what each one is like. I would lie in bed at night and - even though we may have been in a particular cottage that day - I’d suddenly think ‘ah! We need to get that painting up in Smugglers, and then there’s one sitting down in Gem that could work too,’ so we’d revisit a house on the second day and move and replace some paintings; it was always for the better.”
Along with their passion for work, there is a clear mutual respect between the pair. Anna is so grateful to have had a confidante; not only for practical reasons like carrying or holding up paintings but for a second – and often contrasting! – opinion to her own.
“They became like little friends for us. I mean I had one beautiful painting called 'Blue Day' by Janet Lynch - an extraordinary painting that I particularly love – that we took from house to house to house and Mel kept on saying no, no, no!”
“She was so determined!” adds Mel, “saying it does work, it does work! And I would say you’re trying to make it work but it doesn’t.”
“Then one day,” adds Anna, “I was working in Wigeon and I had all these paintings in there – including the Lynch which was with me again! – and I was so happy because I had changed the sitting room and it fit in perfectly.”
So they got there in the end: even Mel agrees it is the perfect home. However, the job certainly isn’t over with Anna already preparing for the winter to come! “We are sending art off to the framer now and when we get those back we will put them into store. Then this winter there are still quite a lot of houses that need an upgrade. "
"The Dorrien-Smiths have put together this amazing art collection that deserves to be maintained, admired and kept looking as good as it can be. It was a massive project but I’m just hoping that all those people - in those 40 cottages across 40/50 lets over the years - love what they see.”