Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Chantal Joffe at the Jerwood. Get that poor man some ointment!

Oh, that lovely week in Madeira seems ages ago already. It was a shock landing at Gatwick into grey, sleety gloom, but fortunately the weather has now improved - almost springlike.
     On Sunday we called at the Jerwood to view the latest exhibition, 'Beside the Seaside'. According to the blurb on the gallery wall, Chantal Joffe is known for her powerful pictures of women. Well, the paintings were certainly large... but does large mean powerful? Apparently, these pictures are of people in Hastings.
     The first thing that hits you between the eyes when you enter the first gallery isn't a woman at all, but an enormous canvas of a naked bloke (her husband, I gather). Next thing, your eyes are drawn straight to his testicles, which are alarmingly bright red. Poor chap, what on earth is the matter with him? I hope Chantal ran down the chemist and got him some soothing ointment as soon as she had finished the painting.  Of course, you are not allowed to take photos in the gallery and I wouldn't put Mr Redwotsits on here anyway, but here are a few gleaned from the interweb.
Big paintings, acres of space....

Chantal Joffe
     The pictures were OK, but I couldn't get a lot of meaning out of studying them. She's clearly quite into fashion... The women and girls often looked very cold, in a condition of extreme social/economic deprivation, addicted to heroin, or in some cases, all three. As so often with the Jerwood, the thing was over very quickly - large paintings, acres of white wall. The picture I liked best was the smallest, of a little dog, probably a chihuahua, looking very sparky and combative. I can't find an image, unfortunately. It was only A4 size, and showed me that the painter does not have to go enormous to make a memorable image.
      The next room prompted rattling of teeth from Battleaxe because it contains work by one of my least favourite artists, Rose Wylie, who co-curated the Joffe exhibition. I still think the Jerwood did itself a massive disservice by having Wylie as the gallery's opening artist. Many locals must have come down and peered into the gallery out of curiosity and reeled away in shock, their worst fears confirmed.
     Upstairs, they have changed the hanging of the permanent exhibition around, but still not brought out that many new pictures. However, it was interesting to see some of my favourites in their new positions. For example, Mark Gertler's 'The Irish Yew' was in a dark corridor, now it looks much less frightening in a sunny room.
     We had lunch in the Jerwood cafe - new menu, nice.
     I read that the Jerwood is planning to have more frequent exhibition turn-rounds in the future. This is good. As a member, I find it interesting to visit exhibitions like Chantal Joffe once, but I am not going to return again and again - I want something different. I would also like to see the full range of the permanent collection - there must still be paintings that have never come out of store. Also, they are planning to stay open during gallery turnarounds, excellent, better still. The current long periods of closure is one of the things Battleaxe has ranted about since the gallery opened. Finally, they are planning to have gallery talks, using the volunteers - go Philosopher. He'll be so good at it.
     Talking about Battleaxe ranting, well, listen to this. Of course, these big corporate bodies are not remotely interested in the random ramblings of a woman from Hastings, but clearly my comments coincided with areas they recognised as a problem. Firstly, Cafe Nero in the town centre. In an earlier post about best coffee spots in Hastings, Battleaxe suggested getting some blinds at the windows, as it was too sunny in there. What have they now got? Blinds. Admittedly, I would have preferred awnings over the outside tables, but you can't have everything.
     Secondly, Marks and Spencer. I only ranted about them a few weeks ago. Battleaxe suggested introducing an 'Essential Basics' range. What did I find when I walked through the Hastings branch? A new Basics section. Just tee-shirts in there so far, but it is a start. Battleaxe also suggested beefing-up the Indigo collection. So, what have they just done? Relegated Per Una to the back and enlarged the Indigo section, now at the front of the store.
     Finally, a mention of a piece by my WI friend and fellow blogger, ScrappyJacky. Battleaxe and Philosopher are always visiting little independent shops and galleries. The campaign to support them by buying 'Just a Card' really strikes a chord with me.