Do you believe in coincidences? I do! The more I believe, the more coincidences seem to keep coming my way!
Just now, as you know, I'm taking an inspiring on line course with a real teacher, Pauline Agnew (you can find her at www.seedbedstudio.net) Each week is a journey into the lives, works and techniques of accomplished artists. When I saw that this week we are going to learn, among others, about Gillian Ayers a huge grin appeared on my face.
Just a week before I had seen an ad promoting an exhibition of Gillian's work at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings. How amazing is that! And a visit to the gallery I had already planned for this week.
Jerwood Gallery is just a 35 minute train journey from Eastbourne in the same direction as Rye - and another 15 minute leisurely walk from the station through the maze of characterful streets that is Hastings Old Town, the setting for Foyle's War. Whether it is summer or winter, I always love walking through busy narrow streets, full of tiny independent shops, lots of quirky shops and quirky, colourful "alternative" shop owners with alternative views on life, selling clothes from another era and shoes to die for (definitely something to remember), organic toiletries, contemporary art shops and of course the many coffee shops I will have to try to sample in the future.
The location of the new Jerwood Gallery, although controversial locally, situated as it is in the heart of the historic fishing community on Hastings pebbly beach, adds to the charm and character of the building ...... and it is designed to reflect the fishing huts which are its neighbours. One can spend hours looking through the windows of the gallery, leaning on the ballustrades, gazing admiringly at the hive of activity that is real fisherman at work, hauling boats, untying tangled fishing nets, humping boxes of this or that catch to a weighing station, with always the back-drop being the sea communicating with us in various tones and pitches.
What I loved at the gallery, from the first and only time that I have visited before, is its atmosphere - the friendly, smiley attitude of its young staff, and a thoughtful, inviting environment that stimulates curiosity, where one feels like one just belongs. It is so different from the cold but equally new atmosphere of the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne.
Anyway, today is all about Gillian Ayers, her mesmerizing canvases, her strong voice and passion for the unplanned, for the abstract interpretation of the world around her.
I liked the American art critic Harold Rosenberg's comment "What is on her canvas is not a picture but an event". For me her paintings feel like a fiesta, like a fiesta Espanola! - and it feels as if they are saying OLE back to us! The brush strokes or hand strokes are strong and there is no pussy footing. This is someone who, without any pre-planning, is able to dig deep within herself, to listen and then start the communication process through the strength of her colours. She definitely is my type of artist, one layer after another take their places on the canvas in a dance of energies and stories.
I was intrigued to read that the paintings I've seen today were mainly painted in Ripolin, a French household enamel paint, something quite popular with Picasso as well.
The exhibition in Jerwood Gallery features her earlier work in the 1950's. If you would like to learn more about her work do check on www.alancristea.com and enjoy entering into a world of colours, shapes, emotions.
I'm pleased to say that, now in her 80's, she continues to paint and to inspire a generation of new artists with her powerful paintings, her non-conformist personality and no-nonsense attitude!
So, when are you going to Hastings?