Review | Ten Years of Towner Art Gallery

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Lothar Götz Dance Diagonal Brewers Towner Commission. Towner Eastbourne 2019. Photo by Eva Eastman.

The building itself is an intricate dance of angles, edges and corners; the colours and lines are a call to life, an open invitation not only to join a particular rhythm, but to find your own.

The first word that comes to mind when arriving at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne is movement. Designed by award-winning Rick Mather Architects, the structure stands tall and proud, yet smooth, almost organic. There is something sentient about it, something that encourages you to move closer as if conscious of your distinct presence.

Artist Lothar Götz’s Dance Diagonal, the name given to the mural commissioned to mark the tenth anniversary of the gallery’s move from its original home, adds another layer to this conversation. The lines that break the composition can be seen as either flowing to the foundations that ground them or converging toward the sky that exalts them, expanding into a nothingness that is everything. Origin and destination are both one and the other, creation and creator becoming interchangeable roles.

Lothar Götz at Towner Art Gallery Dance Diagonal work in progress Towner Art Gallery 2019. Photo by Eva Eastman

Combined with the colour, supplied by local company Brewers, the geometry of the piece creates a texture that feels malleable, as if you are able to reach for it and mould it into whatever it is you want, wish, need it to be. The way natural light interacts with the original architecture paints the surfaces with ever-changing shadows that add new hues to the composition – no two moments are ever the same. The gallery that holds art becomes art itself.

The experimental energy and personality of the outside structure is matched, reflected by the interior design and current exhibitions.

TEN, curated by people who have been working and volunteering with the gallery for the past ten years with pieces acquired during that same period of time, is a celebration of life, of a space that was created for, and constantly by, those who walk through its doors.

Gertrude Hermes Fighting Dogs 1924 ©Gertrude Hermes Estate. Towner Art Gallery Eastbourne.

Having one of the largest public collections of Eric Ravilious, Ravilious Gallery and Collection Library is a space dedicated to the local artist’s work and is accompanied by literature about other names that are also part of the gallery’s internationally renowned Collection. In a beautifully framed storage room, standing at the heart of the building, the Collection itself has been made accessible to the public, an air of romance surrounding the experience of going through it.

With an enchanting and newly refashioned café that invites the gallery into becoming part of a routine that promises surprises at every turn, there are then two other exhibition spaces that live side by side, and that are currently inhabited by Dineo Seshee Bopape’s Sedibeng, it comes with the rain and by Phoebe Unwin’s Iris.

Phoebe Unwin, Iris. Installation View at Towner Gallery, Eastbourne. 2018. Image Rob Harris. Courtesy Towner Art Gallery

The paintings featured in Unwin’s Iris are first all colour, detail languidly revealing itself as the eye grows familiar with the bright landscape. Undeclared shapes dissolve into memories that take the senses through journeys they recognise as their own. South African artist Bopape’s Sedibeng, it comes with the rain is poetry, an immersive experience that leads you through water and clay, womb and birth. There are growing pains, spiritual understanding and healing, thoughts of belonging and fighting. Though much different in medium, they flow together in a conversation of time and place, of past, present and future.

The Brewers Towner Commission is a puzzle at first, bits and pieces of colour from a distance that is cut short by curiosity. Once fully unveiled, Götz’s Dance Diagonal embraces you in its spirit of discovery, exploration. Towner Art Gallery’s ten years at the new location are celebrated with that same spirit, a collection, inside and out, that calls to communication, expression, to participation.

Phoebe Unwin: Iris and Dineo Seshee Bopape: Sedibeng, it comes with the rain are on view until September 8, and TEN until November 10 2019. For more information see: https://www.townereastbourne.org.uk/.

Words by Maria Mendes.


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