Jerwood Gallery in Hastings to Open, Q&A with Liz Gilmore, Director of the Jerwood Gallery

Text by Bethany Rex

There are a lot of projects that get the go-ahead in the name of regeneration, and the savagely debated Jerwood Gallery in Hastings is no exception. There’s a whole website devoted to the ‘Say No to Jerwood on The Stade‘ (an area next to the fish market) campaign but one only has look East for two shining examples of cultural regeneration come good; the hugely successful Folkestone Triennial and the celebrated Turner Contemporary in Margate. In geographical terms at least, the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings could become the next in a long-line of galleries on the South Coast (The De La Warr Pavilion, Towner, Turner Contemporary) that are not only worth the short day trip from London but worth our support as they embark on the long process of making a significant difference and a positive impact on seaside towns in need of renewed prosperity. The Jerwood Gallery in Hastings will open its doors to visitors on 17 March 2012. We spoke to Liz Gilmore, Director of the Jerwood Gallery to find out more.

BR: We have seen a wave of new regional contemporary galleries opening in the UK over the last two years; Nottingham Contemporary, Towner in Eastbourne, Hepworth Wakefield, Turner Contemporary, firstsite in Colchester. The general mood was these would be the last of their kind to open for some time to come. How has the opening of the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings been made possible?

LG: Jerwood Gallery has been solely funded by Jerwood Foundation and has come into being through the vision of its Chairman, Alan Grieve. There have been a number of iconic new gallery buildings and re-developments the past 5 years and we are delighted by their successes. Margate’s Turner Contemporary, Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion, Eastbourne’s Towner to name but a few. Jerwood Gallery is the final link in the “string of pearls” around the SE coast and delivers a “future-facing” gallery for 2012 – environmentally, artistically and architecturally.

BR: What are you particularly excited about showing in the new gallery?

LG: Putting Jerwood Foundation’s collection in the public realm (c. 200 artworks) for the first time and enabling a dialogue between that and a contemporary programme. We open with a retrospective of paintings by Rose Wylie, a 77 year old Kent based artist – the first UK retrospective of her work which will be housed in our contemporary space.

BR: You read about the care required to create a programme that is both ambitious and artistically significant- but also one that will be embraced by the local community. How will the new space in Hastings overcome this challenge?

LG: Building new appetites and balancing that with what people know or hope is on the menu is always a challenge. But the successful galleries always do this well. We are very keen that Jerwood Gallery should be a cultural hub for Hastings, offering an ambitious, nationally significant programme that local people can be proud of. We open with Rose Wylie, then its Gary Hume . . . both artists have had a long association with Jerwood Foundation, personal connections with the region and in terms of ambition, place Hastings/Jerwood Gallery on an international stage.

BR: Would you be able to tell us a bit more about the design of the new gallery? How did the relationship with HAT Projects come about?

LG: The design is a sensitive response to the needs, ethos and qualities of the Jerwood Collection, and to the extraordinary architectural context of the site with its fishing beach, listed net shops and medieval Old Town. It is also an exemplar of environmental sustainability, through passive design, ground source heat pump cooling, solar thermal hot water and other measures.

Seven gallery rooms are dedicated to the Jerwood Collection: a large ground floor gallery is for temporary exhibitions; there is a sculpture courtyard, a first floor café overlooking the fishing beach, education space, library and shop. Its “grand domestic” scale brings a quality appropriate for Jerwood’s Modern British art collection which it will house.

Hana Loftus of HAT Projects worked with Jerwood from the genesis of the project, helping to develop the brief and research potential locations. HAT Projects were then appointed architects to design the project as Jerwood decided they had the best understanding and experience of the needs and ambitions of the project.

BR: Could you give us an insight into the inaugural exhibition?

LG: It’s the first UK retrospective for Rose Wylie. The title of the exhibition, Big Boys Sit in the Front is taken from the final line of a poem by Robert Creeley (1926-2005 “… the big people, sitting up front”), whom Rose met in Vancouver in 1962. Written late in Creeley’s career, it reminds us, how childhood can feel. This mirrors Rose’s respect for direct imagery, an example of which she finds in the work of African lorry artists which inspired her piece Lorry Art (2010) which is on show for the first time. We’re delighted to be showing new works, including a monumental piece Getting Better with Water, 2011; along with some of her well know works such as Woman Sitting on a Bench with Boarder (film notes) 2007-8.

BR: In a nutshell, what are the highlights of the Foundation’s collection?

LG: The collection has grown over 20 years under the aegis of Alan Grieve and celebrates 20th and 21st century British art and artists, some of whom are well-known and some less so.

The first exhibition of c. 58 works puts on show: Flowers in a Terracotta Pot by David Bomberg (1890-1957); a portrait by Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) of his niece Daphne. Some works have strong local resonance – eg: The Churchyard, Rye, by Edward Burra; others international interest for example, a stunning painting of the church of St Remy by Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942). And a wonderful still life painting, entitled Green Jug by the artist Keith Vaughan (1912-1977).

BR: Could you tell me a bit more about the history of the Stade?

LG: “Stade” is Anglo-Saxon for ‘landing place’, and this area of Hastings beach has been used by Hastings fishermen for nearly 1000 years. Indeed, many of the fishermen still working the beach can trace their family history back over several hundred years. It’s an area steeped in history and cultural tradition and a wonderful context for a gallery.

BR: What will the relationship be like between Jerwood Hastings and the Jerwood Space in London?

LG: We are both part of the same Jerwood family and work closely and collaboratively. Jerwood Space in Southwark opened in 1998 as a major capital initiative of the Jerwood Foundation and is recognised as one of the best rehearsal spaces for theatre and dance in the UK. The knowledge and experience of staff from that project has been instrumental to the success of our construction. Jerwood Space is also home to Jerwood Charitable Foundation (JCF) who develops and manages the Jerwood Visual Arts programme. Without giving too much away regarding our future programme I can confirm that we expect to show a number of the JVA shows in the future.

BR: It’s good to hear that the Gallery will benefit local communities through outreach activities. In this vein, could you give us an insight into the film collaboration with Project Artworks?

LG: The project captures the moment of practical completion – when we formally took possession of the building after the main construction phase. The film, directed by Kate Adams, MBE, captures the uninhabited Jerwood Gallery, providing poetic and intimate insight into its spaces by people who have perceptual and cognitive impairments but who are highly sensitive to the sounds, surfaces, light and qualities of built space. We will show the film at Jerwood Gallery in July 2012

The Jerwood Gallery in Hastings will open to the public on Saturday 17 March. Full programme information is available here:

Aesthetica in Print

If you only read Aesthetica online, you’re missing out. The February/March issue of Aesthetica is out now and offers a diverse range of features from an examination of the diversity and complexity of art produced during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s in Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, opening 11 February at MCA Chiacgo, a photographic presentation of the Irish Museum of Modern Art‘s latest opening, Conversations: Photography from the Bank of America Collection. Plus, we recount the story of British design in relation to a comprehensive exhibition opening this spring at the V&A.

If you would like to buy this issue, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Better yet call +44 (0) 1904 629 137 or visit the website to subscribe to Aesthetica for a year and save 20% on the printed magazine.

Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, HAT Projects
© Ioana Marinescu