Hastings Contemporary

The Stade, Rock-a-Nore, Hastings

30 April 2022 to 25 September 2022

After a long absence we finally were able to re-visit Hastings Contemporary, formerly The Jerwood Gallery, located on the Stade, right next to the beach, where we saw their latest exhibition “Seafaring”. The fifty works are predominantly British and range from the early 19th century to the present day.

The exhibition as a whole reflects on the dangers as well as the pleasures of life at sea, but without doubt the heart of the exhibition deals with the perils faced by those at sea, both in times of peace and war.

Val pondering Maggi Hambling's "2016"

As we enter the exhibition we see one of the earliest depictions of a shipwreck and the fate that befell its survivors – Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa” (Not the actual painting now in the Louvre – a massive 4.1 m x 7.16 m picture, but a small facsimile print. I think a larger reproduction might have sat better), as well as a facsimile of  Eugène Delacroix’s “Christ on the Sea of Galilee” together with a preparatory drawing for it. A JMW Turner watercolour of a shipwreck is also included, “Loss of an East Indiaman” 1818,but depicting a mass of figures it has to be said were not his forte.

Théodore Géricault , Raft of the Medusa, 1818-19
Eugène Delacroix, “Christ on the Sea of Galilee”, 1854
JMW Turner, "Loss of an East Indiaman", 1818

Théodore Géricault made very many preparatory works for the “Raft” including small plaster maquettes to judge the effects of lighting and pose, one of which is included in the exhibition – a great addition.

In the same room we have a wall dedicated to the German artist Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997), who made a whole series of works based on the Géricault painting, exploring his own mortality (an heavy drinker the works were completed shortly before his early death from liver cancer) putting himself in the various poses of the protagonists of the “Raft of the Medusa”. Here are included some powerful lithographs from this suite of work.

Martin Kippenberger from 'Raft of the Medusa' Suite

The next room, before we enter the larger part of the exhibition upstairs, is devoted to 3 oil paintings by Cecily Brown (b.1969), under the show-within-a-show heading of Lost At Sea,  a contemporary, more abstract response to the Géricault and Delacroix paintings.

Cecily Brown, "Oinops"

Upstairs the bulk of the exhibition hosts a wide range of pictures. One of the joys of such exhibitions is being able to see works that rarely, if ever, see the light of day in London exhibitions.

The theme of shipwreck and rescue at sea continues, but we are also introduced to those who are at sea for many reasons – travel, immigration and especially war – there are some great watercolours by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) of life in submarines during World War II (which he had hoped to produce as a children’s colouring book).

"The Boardroom", Eric Ravilious

There is also a haunting work of a sole shipwrecked survivor on a raft by Norman Wilkinson (1878-197), “The Sole Survivor”, who despite his loathing of abstract art was the inventor of that most abstract of art forms put to industrial use – the so-called Dazzle camouflage with which the Royal Navy ships were painted during the First World War, represented here by a wood engraving by  Edward Wadsworth (1889-1949) of a ship being painted in dry-dock.

"The Lone Survivor", Norman Wilkinson
"Ship in Dry Dock, Liverpool", Edward Wadsworth, 1918

The accompanying labels to the pictures on display, (which can easily descend into their self importance – note the criticism of the labels at the recent Hogarth exhibition at the Tate Gallery)  are here informative, and succinct, giving the history and stories behind the paintings on display.

For example, we learn about the genesis of Hughie O’Donoghue’s “Wake II” a mixed media work on tarpaulin, depicting the wreck of the ship MV Plassy that ran aground in 1960 on the island of Insheer off the west coast of Ireland and which is still there.

“Wake II”, Hughie O’Donoghue

There are also depictions of the great trans-Atlantic ocean liners, including the iconic 30’s poster by Cassandre (alias of Adolphe Jean Marie Mouron, 1901-1968) of the Normandie Trans-Atlantic liner, created in 1935.

More up to date we have the irreverent look at life on board a liner by Chris Orr, Small Titanic (1993) – a firm favourite with children we were told by one of the gallery assistants!

"Small Titanic", Chris Orr

Once again, below is a gallery of some of the paintings and prints that caught our eye – enjoy!

The exhibition which runs until the 25th September is curated by:

James Russell

Picture of His 'n' Hers

His 'n' Hers

"I'm afraid Art is not one of the 'pivotal' Trades in the modern state, but rather condemned as some foreign substance like dirt, on the rim of the wheel liable at any moment to be dropped off. So be it, it is an idiotic world...Still we HOPE, STRIVE, CONTINUE..."


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