town, towner and seafront

December 6, 2011

At the Towner Gallery, I always seem hung up on looking through the long windows to the context. I like the layers and abstract shapes made by the natural and unnatural light. 

The main reason for visiting was to catch the Franziska Furter ‘Stray Currents’. An eclectic mix shown in a single gallery space where the larger sculptures kind of overpowered the much smaller pieces. However, wandering around peering in, and at, and lying down looking through as well as hop scotching into coloured rings as well, made the whole exhibition user-friendly and rather jolly. 

But oh joy, the companion exhibition ‘Six artists explore the collection and reflect on the creative process’ was completely show stopping, for me anyway. Inspired by the Marcel Proust quote “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”. The immense pleasure of looking at a Peter Lanyon again – powerful environment where paint represents ‘experience and makes it actual’. The image below is another Lanyon ‘Over the Jaspar Sea’

And 1962 painting by Sandra Blow. The thrill of the leap, a daring and a lightness. What exhilaration – paint put on with a trowel – the energy zings out from the canvas.

Ivon Hitchens painted in Sussex for his last 40 years listening to the ‘subtlest nuances of the English landscape . . the musical appearance of things . . recreating the truth of nature by making my own song about it in paint’. ‘Divided Oak Tree’ below . . .

 . . and ‘Twisting Stream’.

Ursula Mommens, the potter, also lived locally. ‘Large Painted Jar’ was made in the 1970’s. Brushed decoration of foliage in single bold flourish – making the invisible visible. Mommens was great-great-granddaughter of the potter Josiah Wedgwood. Eric Ravilious designed the six cups (below) for Wedgwood in 1937. The illustrations are seen on existing stock shaped cups. The exhibition panel says: ‘Ravilious submitted his drawings which were then engraved by 10 Wedgwood employees. Since Ravilious was a very skilled wood engraver himself, this initially caused him some concern. However, after the first collaboration there was a mutual respect for each other’s craftsmanship. “I will never argue about the Wedgwood engraving anymore, these chaps are without doubt the finest engravers I have ever met”. The designs didn’t go into production but the display sheet is marvellous nonetheless.

Clare Richardson, photographer, spent time in Harlemville, a Rudolf Steiner community in upstate New York. A triptych of images showed clearly the unity between nature, the children and the Steiner principles that she experienced over a 2 year period.  A draft drawing for Eighteen Thousand Tides by David Nash and the sculpture finally executed and installed in an Eastbourne park. The timber for the work  is decommissioned groynes from The Eastbourne Seafront.

And so to the seafront, west of Sovereign Harbour, a great opportunity for creating and instilling an identity to this strip of landscape – a corridor edged on one side with cheap housing using poor materials. Described as ‘la-la’ land – it feels lost. Coastal landscapes are receiving attention, succesful and less so, recently. Dover Esplanade and Worthing Splash Point, are both relatively close neighbours. The view to the east on this piece of seafront is blocked by this horrible piece of architecture. Seating is encouraged here. The building is the waste water treatment works!

But to the west, Beachy Head rises above the town, linking the contextual landscape with the local town framework and generally easier on the eye. The inspirational exhibition –  seeing with new eyes – would be my starting point for nurturing ideas for this landscape.   

CONSIDER the sea’s listless chime:

Time’s self it is, made audible,–

The murmur of the earth’s own shell.

Secret continuance sublime

Is the sea’s end: our sight may pass

No furlong further. Since time was,

This sound hath told the lapse of time.


No quiet, which is death’s,–it hath

The mournfulness of ancient life,

Enduring always at dull strife.

As the world’s heart of rest and wrath,

Its painful pulse is in the sands.

Last utterly, the whole sky stands,

Gray and not known, along its path.


Listen alone beside the sea,

Listen alone among the woods;

Those voices of twin solitudes

Shall have one sound alike to thee:

Hark where the murmurs of thronged men

Surge and sink back and surge again,–

Still the one voice of wave and tree.


Gather a shell from the strown beach

And listen at its lips: they sigh

The same desire and mystery,

The echo of the whole sea’s speech.

And all mankind is thus at heart

Not anything but what thou art:

And Earth, Sea, Man, are all in each. Dante Gabriel Rossetti  The Sea Limits

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