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In our latest blog, Richard Best, speaks to Director of blackShed Gallery, Kenton Lowe and Assistant Curator at Jerwood Gallery, Victoria Howarth, about what makes a frame in the run up to the opening of Quentin Blake: Life Under Water - A Hastings Celebration

Every artwork must decide on a frame, even if the choice is not to have one. In this two-part blog I will be exploring Jerwood Gallery’s approach to frames and how this will affect their forthcoming summer exhibition, Quentin Blake: Life Under Water – A Hastings Celebration.
The Jerwood Collection is comprised of an eclectic mix of artworks from many different periods and styles, and visitors often comment on the great variety of frames that complete these works. When a new work is purchased for the collection it remains in its given frame, which is often the original housing chosen and provided by the artist or their representative galleries. But occasionally the gallery will choose to reframe a work before an exhibition and a great deal of consideration goes into the look and style of these frames.
This week I spoke with Jerwood Gallery’s Assistant Curator, Victoria Howarth and blackShed Gallery Director, Kenton Lowe to discuss their ideas about what makes the perfect frame.
In contemporary art it is preferred that the frame draws attention to the work but in itself is rarely appreciated; this speaks very clearly of the exceptional importance of outstanding quality frames. They should be impeccably made and perfectly in-keeping with the intended aesthetic of the artwork. For this process to begin it is important that the framer is able to establish an inti-mate understanding of the work and its purpose.
For Kenton, this has meant sometimes deciding not to frame the work, "I have hung complete shows without framing; an unframed exhibition almost becomes an installation and can look really cool." In contrast, Victoria recalls artist Jeffery Camp, who would paint his frames and consider this to be part of the creation of the work. For me, the most notable example of high impact framing was during an exhibition of printed wooden panels in Martin Brockman’s, London Road. These works were visually striking yet a little imposing as an unframed collection in a gallery space, but the use of a simple frame allowed these pieces to assume a singular identity and 'fit' the aesthetic of a homely interior.
The newly commissioned exhibition, Quentin Blake: Life Under Water – A Hastings Celebration, has arrived directly from Quentin Blake’s studio - his exquisite watercolour drawings still fresh in their pure unbound paper format – and Jerwood Gallery has invited Kenton to create 26 bespoke frames that should reflect Jerwood Gallery's space whilst giving the work an unmissable presence.
The process of framing Quentin Blake’s exhibition began at the gallery. Kenton met with Director Liz Gilmore, and Gallery Development Manager Shelley Mullane, to discuss the work at length and develop an understanding of how it would most appropriately be incorporated into the gallery space. As the title suggests, the exhibition really is a celebration of Hastings and so a feeling of location was considered very important. It was agreed that a simple wooden frame would subtly reflect the gallery’s pale oak floors while hinting at the nearby beach huts and pebbles. Once their conclusions had been drawn, Kenton confirmed that “Quentin Blake was involved in the final decisions regarding framing and was absolutely thrilled by our choice.”
To coincide with the opening of Quentin Blake: Life Under Water – A Hastings Celebration on Thursday 2 July, my next blog  will take a closer look at the technical specification of the frames and give an impression of the exhibition once it has reached the walls of Jerwood Gallery.

Richard Best is a published visual arts writer living and working in Sussex. Whilst writing exhibition reviews for the blackShed gallery over the past two years and creating a successful independent arts blog, Richard has developed an honest and informed writing style that reflects his experiences and involvement with the art that he explores.

Find out more about blackShed Gallery here.

Image: Director of blackShed Gallery, Kenton Lowe.