A trip to the Magnificent Motor display in Eastbourne recently led me into the Towner Eastbourne, in part because I am so compelled by the exterior (designed by Lothar Götz and called Dance Diagonal). I can’t help but always stop and admire this dazzling display and once you’re outside the Towner (and now it’s open again) well, you may as well head in to see what’s afoot.
For those that don’t know it, the Towner Eastbourne is one of our county’s best art galleries in terms of both collecting and exhibiting contemporary art. It hosts exhibitions of national and international importance, showcasing the most exciting and creative developments in modern and contemporary art. They always seem to have a diverse and thought-provoking list of events and exhibitions and here are just three that you can see this year:
John Nash: The Landscape of Love and Solace. May to September 2021
British painter of landscapes and still-lives, and a wood engraver and illustrator, particularly of botanic works. Nash’s prolific career spanned more than seven decades. He was an Official War Artist in both the first and second world wars and is well known for his work Over the Top in 1918 and The Cornfield of the same year.
This exhibition is the largest collection of his works and takes you on a deep dive into his diverse styles, mediums, and subject matters. It’s the first major exhibition of his work since 1967 and a chronological overview of his life and career. You may think you know Nash for one particular genre and I was certainly surprised at the variance in his styles.
Art is always a subjective experience but suffice it to say, this exhibition is a fascinating journey that is at times unexpected, and light-hearted and at other times, profound and deeply moving. For me, the stand-out works are Nash’s bold and emotional WWI paintings and his detailed botanical work.
John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea, 2015. May to September 2021
Akomfrah is a highly respected British artist and filmmaker who is known for his work that explores memory, colonialism and migration. He was a founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective. He has exhibited around the world.
This three-channel HD video explores man’s relationship with the sea, and its role in slavery, migration, trade and conflict. It’s a composition which combines stunning wildlife and national history footage, with archive film and photography, and a haunting narrative delivered by way of poetry, personal testimony and script. Make no doubt about it, this is both a compelling and challenging experience. It’s beautiful and horrific in equal measure and at times extremely uncomfortable viewing. There were parts that didn’t work (for me) and other parts that were so extraordinarily powerful I felt moved to tears. Whatever your views, it’s a narrative that will keep playing in your mind for many days or weeks to come, and personally, I have almost a compulsive urge to go back and watch it again.
A drawing, a story, and a poem go for a walk: Mariana Castillo Deball curates the Towner Collection. May to January 2022
Mariana Castillo Deball is a Mexican artist who lives and works in Germany. She has exhibited across the world and is known for her use of installation, sculpture, photography and drawing to explore the role objects play in our understanding of identity and history. She has curated this exhibition from a combination of Towner works that have rarely been displayed, alongside more familiar and much-loved depictions of the Sussex landscape.
She has also has created a public artwork that plays out across the streets of Eastbourne, into Towner Eastbourne’s gallery building, and out to the South Downs. It’s described as:
“On this two-hour walking route around the streets of Eastbourne, pedestrians will discover a chalk-stenciled rope that traces an unexpected route through the town, outlining the silhouette of a woman’s profile. Followers of the walking trail will encounter several sculptural objects embedded in the pavement, each relating to objects that were buried with The Frankish Woman, whose ancient remains were discovered in Eastbourne at the Anglo-Saxon cemetery on St Anne’s Hill.”
This runs from May to November and is free and you can download the map from the website: Towner Art Gallery (townereastbourne.org.uk)
Whatever your tastes and preferences, it’s always worth checking in regularly to see what’s on at the Towner, and if you find yourself in this part of Sussex, just set aside a little time to enjoy one of Eastbourne’s great cultural attractions.
If you’re visiting the Towner in Eastbourne, you may also enjoy: