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St Michael's Mount Artist in Residence: 2003, 2006, 2007

"Perfect evenings in the garden watching the moon shimmering across still water with the castle rising into the dark blue sky. Flowers and sculptural plants balance on sheer rock faces before appearing to tumble down into the sea; secret gardens and hidden pathways led us around our own storybook of ideas."

John Dyer

 John Dyer painting on St Michael's Mount

Above: Artists John Dyer and Joanne Short, with their daughter Martha-Lilly Dyer, painting on St Michael's Mount in 2006

"The paintings of the Mount that John and Joanne have done in the past are great: they really capture the lively, colourful spirit of the place. We're all really looking forward to working with them again, and seeing what they come up with this year!"

Kate Waddon. Island Manager of St Michael's Mount

John Dyer was the artist in residence for the island of St Michael's Mount. Living and painting on the island was an extraordinary experience for the artist.

Of all romantic experiences, to live in a castle on an island must take some beating. St Michael’s Mount, the home of the St Aubyn family for centuries and now shared with the National Trust, sits on a granite outcrop off the south Cornish coast near Penzance, connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway which is impassable at high tide. The sub-tropical gardens clinging to the steep rock face in narrow terraces are a miracle of garden design; despite the salty air and frequent gales, tender plants flourish in a micro-climate which is controlled by the granite itself, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it by night to create a unique environment in which even the most unlikely species can thrive.

In the spring of 2006, John, Joanne and their daughter Martha-Lilly (their younger daughter Wilamena was present as a ‘bump’ a month before her birth) spent a week in this idyllic setting at the invitation of James and Mary St Aubyn (now Lord and Lady St Levan). John and Joanne had been Artists in Residence for St Michael’s Mount on two previous occasions, but had then been land-based, crossing over the causeway each day to paint on the island.

‘We spent a fantastic time as a family on this fairy tale island,’ John reminisced. ‘Perfect evenings in the garden watching the moon shimmering across still water with the castle rising into the dark blue sky. Flowers and sculptural plants balance on sheer rock faces before appearing to tumble down into the sea; secret gardens and hidden pathways led us around our own storybook of ideas.’ 

"We are working very closely with the team on the Mount to create what we believe to be one of the best exhibition spaces in Cornwall to display these new works. It is all very exciting and we are sure that the experience our collectors will have of seeing the paintings in context to the landscape that inspired them will be very memorable"

The John Dyer Gallery 2007

John Dyer exhibition on St Michael's Mount

"It is a great pleasure to host this exhibition by John Dyer and Joanne Short, which is a product of their stay on St Michael's Mount during May last year. While the island as a whole has been painted exhaustively over the years, the gardens and grounds have received much less attention. I am delighted therefore to see the gardens given their due and depicted so vividly in these paintings. It is a new venture for us to hold an event like this in the Island Café and I hope you enjoy the venue. The Café sits next to the entrance to the gardens, which I hope you might visit also to see some of the subject matter that inspired the artistic work on show."

James St Aubyn. St Michael's Mount.

In another departure from their usual practice, the exhibition of paintings arising from their residency was held not in their Falmouth gallery but on the island itself. The Private View had to be carefully timed to take place during the two hours of low tide, as the boats which take visitors to and from the mainland when the tide covers the causeway do not run during the evening. Despite the meticulous planning, many invitees to the opening were seen splashing across the causeway while it was still under water, so keen were they to be first in the queue to see the paintings as soon as the doors opened!

Article courtesy of Kate Dinn.
Read all about John Dyer's life and work in the book 'Painting the Colours of the World' by Kate Dinn.

"Up until 2002 the gardens of the Mount were curated by the Dorrien-Smith family of Tresco Abbey Gardens, and it was this link, along with many others that inspired us to explore this small island.

Lord St. Levan very kindly agreed to give us as much help as possible in the exploration of the island and the realisation of our paintings and introduced us to Alan Cook, the head gardener and now curator of the gardens on the Mount.

The terraced gardens on St. Michael's Mount are remarkable in several ways. The fact that they can grow on this rocky outcrop is amazing enough, but when you are there the severity of the conditions and the bounty of the plants combines into a truly magical and awe inspiring sight.

This really is story book stuff - towering sub tropical plants cling to the steep terraces that quickly wind their way up to the castle standing proud against the brilliant blue cornish sky and all set on a tiny island that manages to grow and provide the whole range of conditions you can find in Cornwall; bluebell woods, cornish clifftops, lichen covered granite blocks, palms trees and succulents, grand walkways and pine trees.

To add to this heady mixture the Mount offers beaches, harbours and crashing seas pounding right up to the gardens.

St. Michael's Mount has it all - in spades."

John Dyer 2003


The official shop on St Michael's Mount created a 'John Dyer Gallery Mini' with limited edition prints, art mugs, and John Dyer stationery and notebooks. This type of collaboration is something that the John Dyer Gallery has repeated in other locations, such as the Eden Project, and enables the artist's work to be readily accessible and affordable in a range of ways to those who admire it.

John Dyer art range on St Michael's Mount


"As a child I was told a story of St Michael's Mount being a rock thrown into the sea by a giant. I believed in this magical story for years and it is a sad moment when you grow up and leave those magical dreams behind. This journey has been a return to childhood for us all, as the Mount is definitely a magical place of childhood dreams; a place where dreams don't disappear as you grow up.

We spent a fantastic time as a family on this fairy tale island - perfect evenings in the garden watching the full moon shimmering across still water with the castle rising into the dark blue sky. Flowers and sculptural plants balance on sheer rock faces before appearing to tumble down into the sea, secret gardens and hidden pathways led us around our own story book of ideas.While living on the island we were lucky enough to feel part of this very special island community which made us so welcome.Our time on the island exploring and dreaming has resulted in this exhibition of paintings which I hope you will see captures the essence of the island, the sheer thrill of being alive and the wonderment of being a child. It is, I believe, one of our best collections of work.”

John Dyer 2007
BBC TV interview with John Dyer from St Michael's Mount
BBC Radio interview with John Dyer from St Michael's Mount

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