Thinking about the Hastings Contemporary

Well, it is too hot to be outside…. over 30 degrees. The baby seagulls on the roof are panting, beaks agape.  And, today, Boris Johnson has become Prime Minister. Dark times are here. So, let’s stay indoors and keep cool while  thinking about the Hastings Contemporary.

What’s that, some may ask. Well, until a few weeks ago it was the J*****d Gallery, which Battleaxe has had great fun writing about over the past few years. There are loads of posts about it on here – Philosopher and I were even on telly...

One understands there was a big falling out with the Jerwood Foundation, who built the gallery and used it to house their permanent collection as well as put on exhibitions. The Foundation have taken all their paintings away and left the gallery to survive on its own – but of course, they still own the building… Anyway, here is a link that explains it better than I can.

Although Battleaxe did like some of the paintings – hell, she was even featured in a gallery blog post just after the Jerwood opened, talking about her favourites – (which has now vanished from the internet) – it wasn’t the greatest collection, and some of the recent acquisitions were very slight. Also, many of the exhibitions were not only incomprehensible but also sparse – Battleaxe consistently complained about the vast tracts of empty white wall. Here is a typical post!

Philospher worked there as a volunteer until the gallery changed its identity – he struggles with some contemporary non-representational art, as indeed does Battleaxe. Anyway, we have remained members – even if just for the loo, the view and the cafe!

What does Battleaxe think now?

First, the name. ‘Hastings Contemporary’ Why?  It is too reminiscent of Turner Contemporary for one thing. Why couldn’t they call it the Foreshore Gallery, or the Stade Gallery?  The name is too long to trip off the tongue. ‘I’m meeting her for coffee at the Hastings Contemporary…’ No. It’ll get shortened to ‘HasCon’ or something.

So, what have they got in it now?  A couple of weeks ago we went down to the members’ opening evening.  Its was full of the Hastings great/good, and even had the RX Shanty Singers with our friend Tom Kelly performing.


We have been back once since, on a quiet morning. First thing that struck me is that the gallery is full. All the wall space is used. This has got to be good. Never mind the content, feel the width… One wall has even been painted pink.

Plenty to look at

First, there is a large exhibition by someone called Tal R – Eventually All Museums will be Ships. Yeah well, if you say so, mate. Dunno what that means but the painting are very colourful and quite interesting to look at.  There are some very bold blue ones of… ships. Battleaxe quite liked it all.

Tal R
Nice blue ship on pink wall – Tal R

Next, a much less good (in my view) show by someone called Roy Oxlade -Shine Out Fair Sun. He died in 2014. In Battleaxe’s eyes he suffers from being the husband of one of my least favourite artists – Rose Wylie. When it opened in 2012, the J*****d stunned the waiting public of Hastings with a Rose Wylie exhibition – nothing could have been less likely to win over the town scoffers and cynics than her meaningless daubery. Oxlade’s work is scribbly blotchy stuff, with sometimes, something vaguely rude lurking in the background. However, interestingly, Oxlade was a pupil of David Bomberg, and in a small room there are some of Bomberg’s work, and a couple of early Oxlade efforts that are much better.

It is quite painful to compare the Bombergs with the splotchy Oxlades….

Bomberg – view of Ronda

Finally, there is a room full of drawings by  Quentin Blake – The New Dress. To be frank, Battleaxe finds his drawings a bit twee.

So, lots to look at, and I think if you were a paying visitor you’d find it reasonable value.

One thing caught my eye – upstairs there is a little room that used to be kept locked. Now it is open, with a locked glass-fronted bookcase of art books. Could this have the potential to be a little study room for visitors? This morning we went to Eastbourne – to the Towner. This is their study room…. with a big art library all accessible to the public. Give you any ideas, HasCon? (Sorry to call you that but the name is even too long to type..)


I’ll be interested to see where the gallery goes in the future.



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