This weekend Eastbourne’s iconic Towner Art Gallery celebrated its 10th anniversary by announcing an exciting summer exhibitions programme and the unveiling of Brewers Towner Commission by German artist Lothar Götz, titled Dance Diagonal. Götz was 1 of 60 applicants, chosen by a selection panel including Joe Hill, Director of Towner Art Gallery, Mark Brewer, Chairman of Brewers Decorators Centres, David Dimbleby, Chairman of Towner Art Gallery and Kiera Blakey, Curator for Art on the Underground.
In the artist’s largest commission to date, 900 litres of specially manufactured paint in 15 different shades were used to create a larger-than-life mural wrapping around the entire facade of the Towner Gallery building. The striking result is visible for miles, with reports of walkers being able to identify the gallery from the Sussex Downs. The commission will remain in place until May 2020, and is aimed at strengthening the role of the gallery within the East Sussex community.
This major installation coincides with three exhibitions inside the space. The Towner team have cleverly used the adjoined upstairs galleries to build conversation between two artists who bring very different practices to both engage with landscape and memory, in a way that is very fitting to the gallery’s ethos. The first is a Frieze acquisition from 2017 by the Contemporary Art Society that was gifted to the gallery, an intricate and poetic multi-sensory installation by South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape. The piece, Sedibeng, it comes with the rain, is inspired by her heritage and incorporates numerous found objects such as feathers strewn across the floor, star anise and various healing herbs, and images of fruit and flowers native to South Africa. Bopape’s inclusion in the exhibition programme brings with it an important voice of post-apartheid South African female artists.
Next door is UK artist Phoebe Unwin’s solo exhibition Iris, a series of paintings she completed between 2018-19. Her works challenge the notion of looking vs seeing, challenging our immediate response to colour and form by incorporating the imaginative role of memory. I am immediately struck by the varying dimensions and colour palettes of the paintings: they appear to react and jump from one to the next, ranging from compact, intimate, to larger scale works that envelope you. Blend of abstract and figurative, interested in materiality as well as colour. The singularity of the works is reflected in the title – the focusing and stretching of the iris giving the works different lengths, different edges. I enjoyed the physicality and immediacy of her larger paintings vs the smaller intimate works, the deliberate marks vs faster marks.
Downstairs in the original ‘Collection Gallery’, group show TEN shines a light to the permanent Towner collection with a selection of works curated by various members of the Towner team. Visitors will be able to view the variety of works that have been acquired throughout the last decade, from favourites like John Piper to pieces like Ivan Navarro’s Nowhere Man which was exhibited in 2009. Together, the three shows demonstrate the range and variety of works that Towner have accumulated through purchases and loans, as well as gifts. Towner’s collection contains almost 5000 works and is best known for its modern British art, and a growing collection of international contemporary art. As Director Joe Hill explains, the gallery has a strong history of collecting work from living artists and displaying intergenerational works from the last 100 years. He has been in his position for just over a year and having trained as an artist himself, is demonstrably passionate and knowledgeable about the collection, including the racks of paintings in the storeroom.
The exciting news of the gallery’s 10 year anniversary comes after the opening of a dedicated Ravilious collection and free to access library space in February with the support of Eastbourne Arts Circle, an encouraging move with the recent closure of many libraries and community spaces across Eastbourne and surrounding East Sussex.
Unwin’s works and Bopape’s installation will be on view until 8 September 2019, and TEN will run until 10 November 2019 at Towner Art Gallery, Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ.
Alongside these exhibitions, Towner Art Gallery will continue to deliver a diverse public programme of live events, film and learning for the East Sussex community.