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Jerwood Gallery Member, Stephanie Gaunt, reflects on our current exhibition, Jerwood Collection: Revealed

When asked to write about the current exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery from ‘the perspective of a member’, I had to think quite hard. Could it mean that I look at the art in a different way?

The most obvious benefit of membership is the freedom to visit the gallery as often as you like, without paying an additional entrance fee. Never mind the pleasure of being able to pop into the café with the best view in Hastings for a coffee.

Does familiarity with the paintings affect my feelings for them?

In the current Jerwood Collection: Revealed exhibition, much of the Jerwood collection is on show and the walls are full of interesting things. I have visited several times, and my feelings for many paintings have indeed developed.

Euan Uglow’s The Blue Towel, 1982-83, is small and easy to overlook. Now, every time I visit, I stop to peer at it. Where is that woman going? It looks like she is heading outside with no clothes on.

Ruskin Spear’s Public Bar, c.1955, hangs in the downstairs corridor. Glimpsed in passing, it is a brown blur. I now see that it is exactly like walking into a dark bar on a sunny day. Faces gradually emerge from the gloom, light shimmers off the beer glasses, the dimensions of the room appear.

The vaguely threatening The Irish Yew, 1921, by Mark Gertler gets more interestingly spooky with every viewing.

Others are familiar in a different way – more like encountering old friends in the street. I’d count Maggi Hambling’s Frances Rose, 1973 and Dod Proctor’s Lilian, 1923, among these.

Familiarity has helped me to explore links and commonalities between the artists. For example, many lived and worked in Cornwall, including Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes, the Proctors, the Nicholsons, Christopher Wood, Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, Paul Feiler and of course Alfred Wallis. Although their styles differ widely, it feels right to see their work displayed in this particular gallery, sited on a working fishing beach.

I would like to see the Jerwood explore its own local links in the future. Most days, I pass the wonderfully romantic and ramshackle former home of John Bratby, high on a bank off of Harold Road in Hastings Old Town. There are three of Bratby’s works in the Jerwood Collection, all on show in the current exhibition. If the Jerwood could put together a retrospective of his work, I am sure this would have great appeal.

Image: Jerwood Gallery Member, Stephanie Gaunt, beside John Bratby's, Holyland, 1961.

21 March, 2014
Written by Stephanie Gaunt