Jerwood and De La Warr exhibitions, the Hastings fountain – but what is art?

A new exhibition at the Jerwood, another at the De La Warr, and our restored fountain – lots of  things to see!
     At the Jerwood, ‘Drawn Together: Artist as Selector’ shows work from people who have been judges of the annual Jerwood Drawing Prize. Back in 2012 there was an exhibition of winning entries from that year’s competition, and Battleaxe wrote a slightly puzzled and unimpressed blog post about it. Mainly, I was confused as to what constituted ‘drawing’. Interestingly, when we were looking at this current exhibition, one of the senior staff was showing some presumably important person round. I eavesdropped a bit, and heard her say that drawing could be defined as ‘making marks in space’.I don’t know about that.
     As befits the distinguished judges, the exhibition contains some nice things. I can’t show many images because you aren’t allowed to take photos and not many appear on the internet. My favourite was ‘The Sponge’, a huge and very funny drawing of a bloke in his bath, with the room reflected around him in lots of mirrors, by Anthony Green, and a massive ‘almost’ self portrait by Anita Taylor. She produces amazingly powerful images. I also liked a collage of boxes by Rachel Whiteread and this cardboard concoction by Lisa Milroy.

Lisa Milroy, ‘Search Me’

      There were some things, as usual, that I just didn’t get. A wall of what looked like some dirty hankies that husbands had wiped their fingers on after looking at car engines turned out to be ‘Tarnish’ by Cornelia Parker – cloths dirtied from polishing famous objects, list below. Eh? All the cloths looked much the same to me. Perhaps that is the point.

List of objects

     One thing the Jerwood still needs to get right – the light reflecting off the glass of the pictures. I quite liked this reflection of the fish and chip shop across the road on the drawing, but I don’t suppose it is quite what the artist intended.

Nice reflection….

     Across the hall, there is a Quentin Blake exhibition, ‘Artists on the Beach’. Blake has selected ten paintings from the Jerwood collection and produced drawings, with commentary, to highlight them. Presumably, kids and other so-minded folk can go round the gallery and find the paintings. I am glad he chose my favourite John Bratby painting, the one with melons in it.

Quentin Blake ‘Artists on the Beach’

     Upstairs, the ten paintings are indeed on view, which is good, but the rest of the permanent exhibition seems to be – yet again – much the same.  Get some different ones out of the store, you guys!
     One last Jerwood view, taken by me. I liked this pattern of sunlight on the floor in the hallway.

Sunlight at the Jerwood

So, on to the De La Warr.  We had our friend Shaun staying and he had never been, so had coffee there first.  It was a hot day, as usual, and we sat out on the terrace – beautiful. Upstairs, there was a small, but very interesting exhibition of Otto Dix World War I prints – that exhibition has now closed, unfortunately.
     Downstairs, we saw ‘Ivan Chermayeff: Cut and Paste’. Ivan is the son of Serge Chermayeff, one of the architects of the building, which gives the exhibition particular resonance.
     He is a graphic designer, and there were plenty of examples of his work, but much space was devoted to his off-duty pleasure, collage. The exhibition was extensive (and free) and lots of fun – we spent a lot of time poring over it. The collages were simple, but very appealing, and inspired me to go away and try some. I asked Philosopher whether an exhibition such as this would be shown at the Jerwood. He said they probably wouldn’t have it, they wouldn’t regard it as Art.
     I don’t understand about this. When does design become Art? When does off-duty doodling become Art? When would one’s attempts at collage at home become Art?  Why are used polishing rags Art? Why would a Rachel Whiteread collage count as Art and not a Chermayeff? My next blog will be about Follow the Herring on the Stade. Is the ‘Coat for a Boat’ Art? Or craft?
     Here are some examples from the De La Warr exhibition:

Ivan Chermayeff collages – not art?

     While we are on the them of Art/not Art, on Saturday night we saw the restored Pelham Place Fountain switch on. Hastingas will remember the Great Helter Skelter row, where the Council and the citizens turned down a piece of public Art offered to the town, a large aluminium helter skelter, by Henry Krokatsis.
     The objectors, and the Council, were accused of being ignorant philistines who wouldn’t recognise Art if it came up and bit us. I would fall into the philistine category because I thought the helter skelter was horrible. We now have our restored fountain. Presumably, the fountain is Not Art. Or is it? It is certainly pretty, and gives those who see it pleasure.

Pelham Place Fountain – not art?

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