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Richard Best returned to the gallery last week to meet with Gallery Development Manager, Shelley Mullane and Sir Quentin Blake to discuss and explore Blake's current exhibition, Life Under Water - A Hastings Celebration

With the final specifications agreed upon and the framing work completed at the blackShed Gallery, the entire Quentin Blake: Life Under Water – A Hastings Celebration collection was packaged and delivered to Jerwood Gallery. And on Monday I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Sir Quentin Blake and Gallery Development Manager, Shelley Mullane, to discuss the completed work in its intended exhibition space.

Twenty-six identical, pale wood frames lined the first-floor walkway of Jerwood Gallery, side by side and still bound in their transportation packaging. This was the first opportunity for Quentin Blake to examine the finished frames and so one was moved into the gallery space and delicately unwrapped by the installation team. Quentin was delighted by the overall appearance of the frames, and spoke specifically of their float mounting which allows the work to retain its distinction as an original piece of art. He explained that traditional window mounts that lay above the artwork can cause a flattening of the paper which is often best suited to prints. It was also important that the whole sheet of paper should be visible for the audience to see every mark left by the artist.
Twenty-four of the works hang in the north-facing galleries with their vibrant monochromatic characters benefiting from the enormous portrait windows that open the space onto the town. Each of the drawings depicts characters from Hastings and so the exhibition is comprised of a variety of people that constitute the town’s diverse population. Every one has its own story but they each contribute to the singular narrative of the show.
One complete watercolour palette is divided throughout the collection of works and the colours are striking against the vast expanse of white paper that surrounds them. The white continues off the edge of the page, across the under mount, and finally onto the pale, limed waxed ash frames. The bright frames form stark straight lines against the rich nautical blue walls of the gallery and create an elegantly flowing storyboard that directs the viewer’s focus onto the work without any distractions.
When discussing the final specifications with blackShed Gallery Director, Kenton Lowe, he was eager to emphasise the importance of one particular element of the frame, one that will almost certainly, and intentionally, go unnoticed. The glass that protects each image in this collection is a speciality glass with a very high purity rating and exceptionally low iron content. This gives a water clear, almost invisible appearance with a reflection value of less than 0.5%, which ensures absolutely no visible interference with the artwork on display.
The final process in completing the Life Under Water - A Hastings Celebration exhibition is hanging the work on the gallery walls, and Jerwood Gallery’s Assistant Curator, Victoria Howarth shared her views on the task ahead. “The frames are amazing” and this, she explains, is due to their considered simplicity and uniformity, which produces a natural punctuation between the artworks. The planning behind the framing of this exhibition has enabled Kenton to create a series of beautifully distinctive frames that fit the Jerwood Gallery setting perfectly.
An additional two framed watercolour drawings are on display and available to purchase in the Jerwood Gallery giftshop.

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.