At the De la Warr Pavilion: I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart

Welcome to Britain.  Welcome to painting.  The wind whipped across south coast but within Bexhill’s monument to modernism all was calm allowing the reflection to enjoy this charmingly eccentric selection of works showcasing the variety of modern painting.

The 21 artists featured are all living and working in Britain right now although there are no doubt many names missing.  I’ve just read a Financial Times review which laments that the curators have focused on the second division.  But that phrase does this survey disservice and not least because in the generations covered by the show all sports have moved away from having second divisions – it’s all Championships beneath Premierships now.  At least there is nothing here that would belong in League Three.

The picture that entices you in is Adrian Wiszniewski’s The First Anachronism of the Day.  The vibrancy and vitality of the colours are almost obscene in how they get your attention.  And it’s that which sets the tone.  Colour and tone jostle with more considered works – representation has a tussle with abstraction.  The range of ideas is boggling given that we are talking about one modest gallery space here.

On the far well there is Sophie van Hellermann’s Field Day.  That would be my take home piece.  It almost feels like there are too many thoughts trying to be expressed. But to my eye it comes together beautifully.

Throughout, this doesn’t feel like the kind of art that’s going to win Turner Prizes or start a revolution but nor is it Keep Calm and Look at a Biscuit Tin.  Something in between then: a dynamic look at how a centuries-old tradition is finding meaning and purpose.  And it is fun to see.

(As an aside, a thank you to the staff at the Pavilion who were very welcoming to a windswept dad with his two young children – it was their first visit to an art gallery and everybody was very cheery and helpful.)

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