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With just over two week’s left to visit Quentin Blake: Life Under Water – A Hastings Celebration, Director of Jerwood Gallery, Liz Gilmore, talks about our summer Festival of the Sea in this week’s blog.

One only has to visit Jerwood Gallery to understand why we might want to celebrate our coastal context. Visitors are always excited by the physical location of the gallery, nestling between a working fishing beach, the iconic Grade 2 listed net huts, and cliff face of Hastings. Many of the works in our collection have a strong connection to the sea. But the impetus in terms of timing of our summer Festival of the Sea was driven in part by the current redevelopment of Hastings Pier (which is now well under way and scheduled for completion later this year).

There are three strands to the gallery’s festival. Lowry by the Sea, which opened in June, is a delightful two-room exhibition curated by my colleague Victoria Howarth. The exhibition brilliantly showcases a range of Lowry’s enchanting seascapes, many drawn from The Lowry in Salford, along with some stunning pieces from the Arts Council Collection. It’s an opportunity to experience Lowry at his most experimental and surprising.

Sir Quentin Blake has returned to the gallery this year, with a display of 24 watercolour paintings, depicting the people and everyday life of Hastings. Life Under Water: A Hastings Celebration captures all of the elements of the town, from beach day trippers to the antiques and bygones bargain hunters; Pirates’ Day to the annual May Day, Jack-in-the-Green festival - all of life here animated in his characteristically poignant and humorous way.

The third element which opened most recently in July is an exhibition of works by the leading British artist, Rachel Howard. At Sea includes some monumental and very painterly work. We have over a dozen new works in our Foreshore Gallery on the ground floor. I love the Turneresque quality of many. Alongside this exhibition, in Room 1, Howard has selected works from the Jerwood Collection which inspire her. This parallel display reinforces the point that contemporary artists can be as inspired by art from the past, as indeed by their peers.

In addition to our three main summer exhibitions, we have a selection of sea paintings from the Jerwood Collection currently on show in Room 2. The display includes some stunning recent acquisitions, including John Tunnard’s Tide Race and John Piper’s Beach and Star Fish, Seven Sister’s Cliff, Eastbourne, along with many other fascinating works which connect to the gallery’s locality.

A photograph of Hastings Pier by Simon Roberts sits just outside of the café.  It was taken before the transformation began, and you can see the banner from the ‘you can save me’ campaign still hanging on the burnt frame. Rachel Howard painted a work inspired by the pier, titled You Can Save Me, which hangs in the Foreshore Gallery. Simon Roberts’ photograph is on display at Jerwood Gallery in collaboration with PhotoHastings and Flowers Gallery, London

Find out more about the gallery's summer Festival of the Sea

Image: Director, Liz Gilmore in front of Rachel Howard's, Euphoric Recall, 2015