Burrowed in the husky beauty of North Cornwall, Valency Wood is a tribute to the enduring interplay between art and nature. This cheerful retreat in the pocket-sized hamlet of Lesnewth near Boscastle has undergone many transformations over the years, from carriage house to stable, harness room to piggery, before becoming the family home it is today. Owned by art gallery founder Simon, the cottage serves as a canvas for the works of local artist Saul Cathcart, whose evocative paintings tell sometimes gentle, often fierce tales of the Cornish landscape.

Simon's journey with Saul began serendipitously when he stumbled upon the artist's exhibition in Launceston. "I found Saul's dramatic style immediately arresting and separate from other local landscape artists," he recalls. "I was reminded of the best elements of the early 19th-century British Watercolour School: the impressionistic use of colour and the strong sense of place that only comes from working in situ."

The connection between Saul's work and Valency Wood is a natural one, as the artist once lived just a few miles from the house, gleaning inspiration from the cliffs above Boscastle and the feral beauty of Bodmin Moor. The house’s pared-back interior provides a clean backdrop for his paintings, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the tempestuous moods of the Cornish landscape. "Although Valency Wood has an ultra-rural setting, the interior is quite modern with white walls, so it is perfect for displaying contemporary art," Simon explains.

The artist, Saul Cathcart

Powdery pinks flirt with teal blue, while natural furnishings such as a stone fireplace and a hulking wooden coffee table mingle around a roaring log burner in the open-plan downstairs, with French doors offering a glimpse of the bubbling hot tub outside. A striking stable partition, a nod to the building's equestrian past, separates the kitchen from the living area. It’s impossible not to be drawn to the ornate, whitewashed spiral staircase, that coquettishly beckons guests to the three bedrooms upstairs, where one can lounge as the morning mist reluctantly leaves the valley. An overarching sense of calm permeates the house, highlighting the raw energy and emotional depth of Saul's paintings.

The artist’s creative influences span generations, from the great British masters to contemporary painters. "I loved Turner's watercolours growing up," he reveals. "I didn't know much about The St Ives Movement until people started making comparisons, but I now really respect their work." Saul's recent, more abstract work has been compared to that of Post-War St Ives artists like Peter Lanyon, Trevor Bell, and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, who shared his passion for using the Cornish landscape and reconstructing it within their art.

"I firmly believe that Saul is one of the most talented painters working in Cornwall today," Simon affirms. "I hope the paintings give my guests as much pleasure as they have given me." One of his favourite pieces is the painting above the mantelpiece, depicting Strangles Beach. "It is a subject that Saul has painted a lot over the years, and I love the fiery colours," Simon notes.

A pink armchair sits to the left of a roaring fire, with two landscape paintings by Saul Cathcart on the walls

Cornwall has been a constant source of inspiration for Saul, teaching him the art of abstraction. "After painting out in the Cornish landscape for so long, it's easy for me to see it everywhere," he explains. "It seems a more accurate response to me now than a purely representational one. It also goes some way to acknowledge some of the indescribable emotion felt in particular places."

Saul's creative process is deeply rooted in his connection to the land, as he seeks to capture the movement of forms, shadows, and light in his work. "I do a lot of observing," he reveals. "I'm always looking, and at times more at what's in front and around me than what I'm putting down on the canvas." He balances depth and flatness within his compositions, often flicking subconsciously between what his eyes are reading and what his hand wants to do. "I experience the landscape in multiple ways and want to express this within the work," Saul explains. "I can also use the sea's energy and mimic its movement in the way I apply paint."

The artist's deployment of colour and ability to convey atmosphere create a sense of immediacy when standing in front of his work. "I use colour intuitively," Saul tells me. "I don't want to limit myself, or to avoid using an unusual colour because my brain is trying to justify it… and I don't want to underestimate the viewer's ability to read the piece. The language is all there." His paintings often feature hidden references to the landscape, even when he attempts to create purely abstract works. "It turns out this is impossible for me," he laughs.

A lounge with an L-shaped sofa around a coffee table, with a woodburner and doors to the garden

Guests make easy work of getting lost in the organic hues and conceptual forms of Saul's paintings, each a billet-doux to the Cornish landscape. From the incandescent colours of the skies to the geometric shapes roused by abandoned mining structures, these canvases serve as portals to the raucous beauty that lies beyond Valency Wood’s blanched stone façade.

The house itself sits in a wooded idyll flanked by farmland, including a burbling river, wild meadows, reedy ponds, and a well-tended garden, daubed with spring flowers in the warmer months. It’s an excellent launchpad for exploring the scenes that have inspired Saul’s work, including Tintagel, cloaked in the legends of King Arthur, and Crackington, where land meets sea.

"I hope that by being in a relaxed environment, the viewer can sit and contemplate each piece," Saul muses. "The more they look, the more they will be rewarded, and maybe a painting will conjure or evoke some kind of memory or moment of observation they've experienced."

"Artists have been painting the Cornish landscape for hundreds of years. It's an inspiring place full of shape, colour and that famous light." At Valency Wood, this artistic legacy finds new life through Saul's works, inviting guests to step into a world where the boundaries between art and nature become hazy. As Simon reflects, "It's clear to me that there is still something to talk about in Cornwall."

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Saul Cathcart's summer exhibition this year will be a solo show from 20th June to 18th July at Terre Verte Gallery in Altarnun.