diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 07, 2012

In a last hurrah before pre-recession funding dries up, Hastings opened a major new art gallery last month. It's one of a so-called string of pearls round the southeast coast, linking Margate via Eastbourne to Chichester. The idea is that cultured townies will flock to the seaside for the promise of "art", and hopefully stay long enough to drip their cosmopolitan wealth in each resort's economy. This latest project is the Jerwood Gallery, a major project by the eponymous Jerwood Foundation, a charitable organisation in need of its own display space. They settled on a location on the Hastings seafront, more specifically on the former long-stay coach park on The Stade, close to where the town's fleet of fishermen haul their boats up the beach. They're absolutely livid at this middle class interloper invading their space, not just because they miss the coachloads of tourists, but because it's out of place in this hard-working part of town. The council disagree, hoping for regeneration-a-go-go, and gave the land rent-free to keep their major benefactor on side.

The building's low-rise, so as not to dominate its surroundings, and jet black so as not to distract from the famous wooden Net Shops alongside. It's all a bit blocky, to be honest, so you won't be visiting to marvel at the architecture. The occasional large glass window breaks up the walls, although those on the ground floor are tinted to stop too many passers-by from snooping through. That's because this place costs to get in, a grand total of seven pounds a ticket, or rather seven pounds for a till receipt and no accompanying leaflet. Local residents are allowed entry for only £2 on production of proof of address, although you might get past the front desk for nothing if you can reel off a Hastings postcode without pausing.

In the large gallery downstairs, the inaugural exhibition is a retrospective of work by Kent artist Rose Wylie. No, me neither. Six very large works fill the room, under the collective banner Big Boys Sit in the Front, each painted in almost cartoon style. Her brush strokes are thick, her colours are bold, and her characters are roughly drawn. One of her paintings is in reaction to the Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds, which isn't what you'd expect a septuagenarian to be painting, while another features cats with oddly triangular heads. I couldn't quite enjoy the work, and I may not have been alone. The room slowly emptied until I was the only one in it, which was in sharp contrast to the galleries still to come. The most interesting canvas turned out to be the live show of customers at the Fish Hut and Jellied Eel Bar opposite, augmented by passers-by pausing to peer in through the tinted window. A series of short documentaries screened in the adjacent room helped endear me to the artist a little more, but alas not to her œuvre.

Seven further galleries showcase the Jerwood Collection, or about a third of it, on rotating display here in Hastings for the first time. There are no old masters here, the emphasis is on more modern artists, especially work that's been shortlisted for the annual Jerwood Prize. Much of that downstairs was challengingly abstract, in a way that judges like but leaves me cold. Upstairs the subjects were more recognisably figurative, which helped. Female portraits clustered in one room, while "Look, I've painted a jug" seemed to be the theme in another. Most artists have been represented by a single canvas, which increased variety, and you'll probably leave with a couple of "I never knew I liked them"s added to your repertoire. But sixty paintings don't go far. "Is that it?" asked one fur-coated lady to the attendant at the top of the stairs, then wandered off swiftly when told that it was.

There's a café, obviously, because there has to be a café, and dozens of bank holiday art lovers had settled in there for lunch. The menu looked rather appetising, and not unduly expensive, and reassuringly locally sourced. But there was something slightly awkward about the outdoor terrace, where diners can gobble gravadlax whilst looking directly down over the fishermen of Hastings toiling and flogging fresh fish from their ramshackle stalls.

It's a fine gallery, although it does indeed feel out of place amid the bustle of the harbour. It showcases some fine art, although not enough to detain me for more than forty-five minutes. It has a fine-looking website, but one sadly lacking in detail if you drill down further. And really, it's fine, although not quite as entertaining as I might have been hoping. As part of a trip to Hastings it's an essential addition to the tour schedule. But don't come specially just for the Jerwood, because it turns out the rest of the town was plenty interesting enough before it arrived.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream