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Tag: Barbara Hepworth

A tour of South Coast art galleries


We were planning a tour of the South Coast art galleries before covid struck. Now, sixteen months and a new camper van later, we have finally achieved it – or, at least, most of it.

After a slow and gruelling stagger along the M25, we arrived in Margate and made for the Turner Gallery, which is a simple building immediately next to the sea. It is an unassuming gallery, clearly able to put on fairly large-scale and interesting exhibitions.

I was very pleased to be introduced to the work of Ellen Harvey, a New York artist born in Britain. One room housed her large-scale work, ‘The disappointed tourist’  (oil on cradled Gessoboards). This comprised a huge wall of meticulous paintings of buildings, structures and sites that are ruined or no longer functional; and these were combined with a group of Turner paintings of ruined temples and towers. The effect was moving and thought-provoking, and seemed to make sense of the work of both artists.

Among Harvey’s other works on display was ‘The alien’s guide to the ruins of Washington’, which presented a similar theme,

and a fascinating project entitled ‘New York Beautification Project’, in which she painted tiny, perfectly-executed graffiti cameos on items all around the streets of New York, intentionally confining herself to sites on which she did not have permission to paint her work. Here are some examples of the paintings with which she ‘beautified’ some items that are normally considered ugly.

In the foyer of the gallery was a series of huge figures in charcoal and chalk, with accompanying audio, by the artist, Barbara Walker, entitled ‘Place, space and Who’. These magnificent figures represented different Caribbean characters.








Outside, down on the beach, was an Anthony Gormley figure in the same series as his Crosby figures. As with those, I found this sculpture disconcerting as it was slowly drowned by the incoming tide

The next day we moved on to Hastings, where we had a ‘busy’ day, enjoying not only our visit to Hastings contemporary art gallery, but lunch with two (poetry) friends and tea at the home of another couple of (poetry) friends. It felt like the good old days of socialising.

 In 2012 we went to the opening of what was, at that stage, the Jerwood Gallery, built partially to house the wonderful art collection of the Jerwood Trust. Unfortunately, it appears that some time in the last few years there has been an acrimonious falling-out of the gallery with the Jerwood Trust, which has consequently cut all ties with the gallery. This must have left the gallery pretty bereft of art works, but they have compensated for this by borrowing widely, with the result that the collection is well worth a visit.

One of the local celebrities in Hastings is Quentin Blake, who has maintained his connection with the gallery from the start. The large gallery downstairs (which used to be called the Foreshore Gallery) is given over to works by him. Being more used to Blake as the artist of whimsical, humorous sketches, I was quite taken aback by the power of the works on display in this room. A whole wall was taken up by a work entitled ‘The taxi driver’  (2020, acrylic on paper, but it looked more like charcoal), a work that, like other examples of his work displayed in the room, expressed his anxiety over the present state of the world.

Another wall displayed a series of stone heads, fallen in various positions and all slightly disturbing, There was, however, one series of drawings in what was more like Blake’s old whimsical style. This was called: ‘Hand in hand’ (2021, pen, ink & watercolour) and, with all the old punch of earlier drawings, they portrayed easily identifiable human emotions with just a few simple lines.








Unlike the Margate Turner and the Bexhill De la Warr Pavilion, there is an entrance fee for the Hastings Contemporary. But this great feast of art is worth every penny. There are, at present, works by so many wonderful artists, including David Jones, Eric Ravilious, Laura Knight, Paul Nash, L S Lowry, John Piper, Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Bill Brandt.

Our next visit was to the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, a gallery built in the Bauhaus style back in 1935-6. This has only a couple of rooms, and nothing very striking in the way of art. One room was taken up by an exhibition entitled ‘All in the same storm’  which comprised a number of mixed media sculptures, a couple of which were also situated outside on the terrace.  Another room, upstairs, housed a collection of patchworks, writings and video on the theme of welcoming refugees.

I had never been to Bexhill before, and must admit it had something of the atmosphere of a time warp from the 1930s, so it felt appropriate to sit on the promenade eating ice creams before moving on to the campsite on Normans Bay for a delicious bathe in the sea.

All the art galleries were closed on Monday, so we knew in advance that the next day would not involve art. We had therefore planned to spend that day on the beach before moving on to Eastbourne on the Tuesday to visit the Towner Gallery. However, the weather had other ideas, and as the rain poured down and the temperature fell to 13 degrees, we decided to make for home, and visit the Towner on another occasion.


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Winchester blog 4: October


I’ve now made my last visit to Winchester before the Festival starts in earnest at the end of this month. This visit was to finalise the venues and formats for all my poems that form the Poetry Trail through the Cathedral, and then to meet Stephen Boyce to make plans for my Poetry Reading on the evening of November 1st.

My next blog will probably be on something completely unconnected with the Winchester Festival, but after that I hope to be able to post a final Winchester blog with lots of pictures of the various artworks in situ. The Cathedral is going to be bursting with new and interesting art in the festival, as is the whole city of Winchester. If you can possibly get there between 26th October and 3rd November, I highly recommend a visit.

Festival map

As on all the other days I’ve made preparatory visits to Winchester over the last few months, the weather was beautiful and I was able to sit on a bench in the peaceful Cathedral Green to eat my sandwich. I then wandered round the side of the cathedral, to visit the Barbara Hepworth sculpture of the Crucifixion. I’ve always loved this piece: it’s one of three casts, and was originally situated against a backdrop of the sea in St Ives, down in Cornwall. The autumn leaves were drifting gently down, there was no sound of traffic and the great ancient cathedral formed a fitting backdrop to the colour and quiet drama of Hepworth’s sculpture.


It has been a very stimulating and enjoyable process working with the artists who will be represented in the Cathedral during the 10 days Festival, including Sue Wood, Lisa Earley, Michael Weller, Lucy Cass, Penny Burnfield and Anna Sikorska. It was easier when I could meet the artists, particularly if I could see something of what they were working on for the Festival. The two poems that came most easily were Listen, for Sue Wood’s sound installation in the Triforium and Sitting for a Portrait to go with Michael Weller’s paintings in the Morley Library. It’s not so very surprising that this latter poem came quite easily, given that I had hours to think about little else as I sat while he painted my portrait.

The most difficult poems to write were those for which I hadn’t met the artist and didn’t have a very clear idea of what the finished artwork was going to look like. The last poem I was asked to produce for the Trail was in response to a huge polystyrene float that will be suspended above the nave. The work is to be called ‘You are very near to us’; and the artist Anna Sikorska sent the following guidance:

The title of the swimming float, lowered through the roof, hovering and waiting, was overheard at the Cathedral as a response to intercessions. It is part of a body of work describing and playing with surfaces and substance, particularly in this case the chalk of the surrounding land, thinking about directness, cleanliness and simply the desire to reach and bubble upwards.
Mark 2.4  (also Acts 10.11 although this is just a coincidence and was not inspiration for the work).
The chalk lands of Winchester and surrounding areas.
Being underwater, and looking/rising up
He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.  (Acts 10 v 11).

All that presented something of a challenge, but I’m glad to say that after several attempts I did manage to reflect most of these themes in the poem, though with its final focus on music, it turned out to be about something very different from what I first anticipated. One strange result is that this piece is the only one of the poems that has a recognisably religious theme, as it reflects on some of the difficulties of prayer. I am told that this particular artwork is likely to be the most controversial, so it’s rather fun that it should turn out this way. I’d like to include a picture of the float here, but as it’s not finished yet, that will have to wait until my next Winchester blog in November.

There will be maps showing the positions of my poems in the Poetry Trail just inside the Cathedral, and Lucy Cass has produced a series of postcards of some of my poems alongside photographs of her artworks. I shall be doing a couple of ‘walk-abouts’ in the Cathedral in the second week, and running a poetry reading and writing workshop at 2.00pm on Thursday 31st October. You need to book for this workshop, but it is free.

Then on Friday 1st November I shall be giving a Poetry Reading in the Epiphany Chapel at 7.00pm. At this event, the musician/performer June-Boyce-Tillman will give a short performance before I read, and afterwards Stephen Boyce will chair a conversation with me and some of the artists with whom I’ve been working. We will talk about our collaboration, and invite comments and discussion with the audience. Do join us if you can.

There is going to be SO much going on during this 10 Days Festival. You certainly won’t be able to get to everything, but I do urge you to try to visit Winchester at least once during the ten days.

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