Jerwood Gallery Hastings

What better way to spend a rainy day than to go to the seaside?  And after a blustery and rainy walk along the sea front, with the prevailing wind blowing wetly in our faces all the way, what better way to seek shelter from the weather but in the recently opened Jerwood Gallery on the Stade in Hastings.

The Gallery has been some time in the building process, and has been somewhat controversial with some local people.  Generally happy to have the investment in the town from the Jerwood Foundation, there were those who protested about the location on the seafront, formerly a car park, that the Foundation selected as the only site they were prepared to consider.

I haven’t followed all the arguments, but seeing and experiencing the new building, I felt that it made a remarkably positive contribution to the area.  Built to complement the black fishermen sheds which dominate this part of the beach front and low rise sot hat it doesn’t dominate, the black tiles on the exterior reflect the changing weather conditions.

But it from the inside that the cleverness of the design and construction was truly revealed.  It offered a tremendous feeling of light, with large windows that gave onto great views straight out across the sea to the horizon beyond as well as back towards the higgledy-piggledy buildings of the Old Town.

On a first visit, it was the building itself which occupied most of my attention, but the inaugural exhibition of several large works by Rose Wylie was also interesting to see as they conveyed a real sense of fun.  I’ve since read articles proclaiming her as an emerging artist, at the age of 77, and something about that makes me feel rather hopeful for both myself and my friends who are in the ‘up and coming’ stages of our creative careers in our more mature years.

There is an economic theory, I believe, that suggests that where artistic endeavour leads, increased prosperity, both cultural and material follows, so I am hopeful that the opening of the Jerwood in Hastings will augment the town’s improvement from the rather down at heel place it was when I first went there 10 years ago, to one in which there are things to see and do for both residents and visitors.

It’s one of the ‘string of pearls’ along the Sussex and Kent coast which now includes Turner Contemporary in Margate and the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill which are in the vanguard of the regeneration of our love affair with the seaside town.

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