Monday, July 28, 2014

Art and Ice Cream

The East Sussex Open is an annual exhibition, at Eastbourne’s Towner contemporary art museum, to showcase artists from across the county. Based in the largest gallery space in the area, the ground floor Exhibition Halls, it always provides a wide and interesting mixture of artistic forms; and the 2014 selection, ranging from traditional painting to large installations, does not deviate from this stimulating breadth of media.

Having to entertain the kids for the whole day on Saturday, I gambled on children’s intuitive appreciation of art to help me navigate this year’s collection. Whilst I was taking in Susan Crossett’s watercolours of rural landscapes, and Tom Banks’ eerie dark and depopulated St. Leonards’ street scenes, the kids were fighting over who should wear the headphones to accompany Flats, Gallit Shaltiel’s stop motion animation of a man trapped in a concrete structure.

It is perhaps a given that moving images and three-dimensional pieces will appeal more to younger minds; but whilst I was drawn to David Jones’ video installation, Jacob’s Ladder, an endless loop of empty London Underground escalator advertising frames, and the humour of Sam Carvosso’s Sculpture Falling on Lemon, the children were studying photographer Alex Currie’s urban landscapes, in particular the “sausage of snow” covering the stairs of the M61 Rivington services.

When it came to the installations in the centre of the gallery space, the children all enjoyed Anna Gonzalez Noguchi’s Tsumumi: To Wrap, a scarlet binding between the two main gallery pillars; but it was her arrangement of a chair, table, armbands and coffee cup that prompted a furious debate between the kids on the nature of conceptual art. The middle one was particular fervent, and a little too Daily Mail for my liking, in his questioning of the artistic nature of the piece; and when the oldest offered the suggestion that the title, Support, meant that it was about things we need to get by, he was still not satisfied.

The youngest came to the rescue by dragging us off to see contributions by two artists from Project Art Works in Hastings. Albert Geere is an 80-year-old artist with profound learning difficulties, who has lived in institutions since he was two. The primary geometrics of his painting Storm, Sky, House had especially appealed to her seven-year-old eyes. Then there was an exhibit in the name of Andrew and Eden Kotting. I had first come across this father and daughter team after reading an Iain Sinclair essay about them in the London Review of Books in 2006. I had then seen Andrew's 1996 film, Gallivant, documenting a coastal journey around Britain by his grandmother and seven-year-old Eden. Eden was born with Joubert Sydrome, a rare neurological disorder, and has collaborated with her father on a number of projects. Now 26, Eden’s series of canvases on show at the Towner – Stargeezers - depict religious zealots gazing at the heavens and is accompanied by a short film, shot by her father, showing Eden at work.

Wrapped up in the film, I had let the kids give me the slip but I quickly found them again, at the making table in the foyer, expressing their own artistic talents; fairies, war and Daleks abounded. The debate about Gonzalez Noguchi’s installation was still raging, so we took it across the street to the Favoloso ice cream parlour and worked our way through four large helpings of support.

The East Sussex Open runs at the Towner contemporary art museum until 14 September 2014. Entry is free.

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