2024 at Hastings Contemporary

Tightrope Evolution (1), 2017. DETAIL Courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery. Photo Adam Reich

Hastings Contemporary, located on The Stade in Hastings, East Sussex, champions modern and contemporary art. An ambitious programme of temporary exhibitions showcases work by important Modern British artists, internationally celebrated artists and emerging practitioners, often in Kunsthalle-style displays throughout the building. The not-for-profit gallery has developed a reputation for its focus on painting. Innovative programming, partnerships and collaborations support a commitment to outreach, learning and participation. The award-winning building is located on the town’s historic fishing beach among the net huts and working structures of the fishing fleet.

Opening the gallery’s 2024 programme is the Ethiopian multi-disciplinary artist Sime (b.1968) who comes to the UK with his first major solo show in Europe, and the touring exhibition Elias Sime: Eregata እርጋታ will feature at Hastings Contemporary in the Spring.

The leading contemporary artist in his home country, Sime’s work has been shown around the world, and he is the recipient of the African Art Award from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

The exhibition will focus on the last decade of Sime´s career with over 25 works displaying large-scale abstraction works, ceramic installations and sculptural assemblages.

Water, Isabel Rock

This includes his Venice Biennale commission – a monumental work titled Veiled Whispers (2022) – solely made from modern materials such as electrical wires and microchips. The relief is inspired by ancient symbols and traditional sculpting techniques from Ethiopia, split into two main colours with concentric green circles and pink curves.

The exhibition will also have key works from his ongoing landmark series Tightrope (2009-present) which uses figurative and abstract modes of modern Ethiopian art to explore the impact of technology on the environment. With objects sourced from open markets in Addis Ababa, such as discarded ´e-waste´ from Western countries, the works are elaborately sewn surfaces that transform and repurpose these materials into abstract topographies.

Also featured will be Bareness (2014) a large-scale ceramic installation made up of 192 clay vasals. Each one depicts upside-down feet rising into the air, a posture that denotes fragility, and as a result of a deliberate inconsistent firing process, every vasal has a unique size and look, with various shades of terracotta, brown and black.

Elias Sime: Eregata እርጋታ is a touring show from Bristol´s Arnolfini where it opened in 2023.

Still / Life*

21st September 2024 – 16th March 2025

In autumn, the complex genre of still life art will be explored. Drawing from two of the UK´s most significant collections, the Ingram Collection and the David and Indrė Roberts Collection, the exhibition will be a wide-ranging show of more than 30 works, charting an evolution through decades of fascination with the domestic objects and basics of everyday life. 

With its focus on modern British art, the Ingram Collection has a number of still life works that show how the genre strikingly developed, from an official War Artist such as Ruskin Spear (1911-1990), to the metal assemblages of Sir Anthony Caro (1924-2013). Combining both formal depictions as well as more abstract interpretations, through paintings, drawings and sculpture, the collection shows how still life adapted during the disruption and revolution of the early 20th-century art world.

The David and Indrė Roberts Collection is rooted in a passion for contemporary art and features works by artists from the mid-20th century to the present day. Demonstrating how still life has never retreated from the artistic vision and is still being contemplated and depicted in 2024, key works on display from this Collection will include modern interpretations of still life masters by South African artist Ansel Krut (b.1959) UK artist Mat Collishaw (b. 1966). Artists also featured in the exhibition will include Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993), Ai Weiwei (b.1957), Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), Sarah Lucas (b.1962) and Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005).

The exhibition will take this well-known genre and explore why it has been so pervasive throughout the centuries, and what it means for art when form and description take precedence over narrative and function.

It will focus on the issues and ideas that emerge from still life, such as the deliberate absence of human beings, and the traces and impressions that are left behind in and around the objects.

Isabel Rock: Our Cell

21st September 2024 – 16th March 2025

Recipient of the Evelyn Williams Drawing Award in 2023, Isabel Rock (b.1981) will bring the winning exhibition design to Hastings Contemporary in a show that combines drawing, woodblock collages and interactive spaces.

The London-based artist has recently been focused on imaginative, surreal visions of the world following climate catastrophes, and it was these ideas that led to her winning the 2023 prize with the ballpoint pen drawing Our Cell (2022).

The complex and far-reaching exhibition will continue this vision and explore ideas around systems of commerce, power structures, the complexities of desire, as well as investigate human nature and endeavour.

Mark Gertler, The Doll, 1914. Image courtesy of the Ingram Collection 

Rock´s signature large scale drawings will be on display with corresponding short stories, including a Battle of Hastings style scroll that focuses on a depiction of a new, modern and unstable world. While one room will be dedicated to animated immersive projections, featuring music and narrative, that will fully absorb visitors into the artist´s vision.

The title of the exhibition is taken from a ballpoint pen drawing, and a fully interactive prison cell titled Slugfields Luxury Prison, will give visitors the chance to sit inside and contemplate the potential fears for the future. The space will draw on the exact dimensions and layout of a real cell found in HM Prison Bronzefield, the largest female-only prison in Europe, which was where Rock spent a month following a climate-change protest.

For more information about Hastings Contemporary, visit www.hastingscontemporary.org / Twitter @_art_on_sea / Facebook ‘hastingscontemporary’ / Instagram @_art_on_sea

See also: The Gallery Where Art is Celebrated in its Best Light

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