Back in February of this year we reported on problems between the Jerwood Gallery and the Jerwood Foundation who had been bankrolling it up to that point. Matters finally came to a head when the Foundation asked for the pictures that had formed the basis of the Gallery’s collection, to be returned to them. The choice for the Gallery then was either to shut up shop or reinvent itself.
Fortunately for those with any interest in art, they chose the latter course and on Saturday July 6 the doors of the new Hastings Contemporary open to the public.
The gallery itself is looking fresh light and airy with large spaces for big exhibitions and smaller more intimate areas for a different type of exhibit. These smaller rooms are mainly on the first floor where there is also now a cafe with a balcony overlooking Hastings’ iconic fisherman’s beach with the fishing fleet (or at least part of it) drawn up on the shingle.
The management could have been forgiven for playing it safe with their opening exhibition but instead they have taken the new name of the Gallery to heart and filled it with the works of internationally well known contemporary artists.
The main display area is currently given over to Copenhagen-based artist Tal R with an exhibition entitled, Eventually all museums will be ships. Some of the work this writer has to admit he found difficult to understand, nevertheless the use of colour and style in all the paintings shone through and one could certainly appreciate why and how Tal R has won his international following.
On slightly more familiar ground was Shine Out Fair Sun, the first major public gallery exhibition of British artist, Roy Oxlade.
Described by the Guardian’s art expert as “one of the most impressive British painters of the last 50 years”, Oxlade was an artist, teacher and writer and his work was always energetic and bold with a powerful use of colour. This was apparent in the paintings on display which featured examples from over 50 years of his work. He lived and worked, with his wife, fellow artist Rose Wylie not far from Hastings and much of his work reflects his everyday life.
Oxlade’s paintings had a second outing in a smaller display of work combined with that of David Bomberg and which illustrated the relationship between Bomberg the teacher and Oxlade his student. It is interesting that, although not unusual to our modern eyes, Bomberg’s work in the early part of the 20th century was so far ahead of its time that in 1913 he was expelled from the Slade School of Art, being considered too radical in his approach. This did nothing to halt his career, becoming one of the outstanding artists of his time.
By way of light relief from such serious, and at times majestic, art, a small first floor gallery showed a series of charming graphite-on-paper sketches by Hastings resident Sir Quentin Blake.
Probably best known for his illustrations in many books by Roald Dhal, he demonstrated that in this display of new works specially for the opening of the Gallery, his sense of humour has in no way diminished. The sketches, based on the theme of fashion explored transformation and structure were amusing in themselves and gave a slightly sideways and mildly sardonic look at the fashion industry. As always from Blake, a delight.
The Tal R exhibition remains on until October 13 and the others until October 6. Regardless of one’s knowledge of contemporary art, this is a serious gallery worth a visit.
Image Credits: John Minter.