The new ‘Coast’ exhibition at St Barbe Museum and Gallery in Lymington is exactly the type of exhibition it does so well. An impressive collection of contemporary artists inspired by the coast, expertly curated by Steve Marshall, is complimented by sometimes ‘quirky’ exhibits from the museum collections.
The nine artists on display are drawn from all over the country with inspiration provided by the coast, a common theme running through their work. While the exhibition encompasses a wide range of media I for one was delighted to see so many printmakers in evidence.
Upon entering the first gallery you are immediately struck by what appears to be a series of windows into a giant rockpool. Artist Michael Porter collects objects from the shoreline as inspiration for his vibrant, almost 3D images of seaweed and stone.
A contrast is provided by Howard Phipps exquisitely detailed wood engravings. The way Howard sensitively captures light falling onto an object demonstrates his complete mastery of the technique. A favourite image being a small boat pulled up onto Chesil Beach below a stormy sky.
Local artist Alison Bolton has produced a series of atmospheric, almost mysterious, pictures of the coast and Lymington River. Alison, who is a fine botanist, eschews botanical detail in favour of a sense of place and a reaction to the natural elements around her.
Pine Feroda are an unusual co-operative of four printmakers whose large-scale woodcuts capture a sense of space and tranquillity, while Ffiona Lewis’s thickly applied oil paintings represent the sea in a more volatile mood. The paint almost seems to flow off the canvas.
Angie Lewin’s delicate screen prints have become very well known in recent years and here she provides a series of intricately designed images. I particularly liked one print containing an assemblage of intertwined coastal plants dominated by the distinctive flower heads of wild carrot.
Jeremy Gardiner’s abiding interest in the geology of the coast leads him to produce very physical 3D works containing intense blocks of colour, deep gouges and hints at the fossils which may lie within the rock.
Two lino cut artists Richard Bawden and Melvyn Evans reveal the range of possibilities with this versatile medium. Richard, son of Edward Bawden RA, creates large colourful prints inspired by the Suffolk coast where he lives. Melvyn has a more abstract style recalling the St Ives paintings of Alfred Wallis.
The third gallery displays a range of exhibits highlighting both the joys and potential hazards of living by the coast. A collection of aerial photographs taken during a major flood in the 1950’s when the seawall was breached are not easy viewing for those of us living in the potential ‘danger zone’. The museums large collection of historic maps are brilliantly showcased in a high tech touch screen display which even allows you to sit down while zooming in and out. Other fascinating objects included a collection of fossils from the famous cliffs at Barton along with some impressive stone age axe heads which had eroded from the same cliffs. A display of vintage bathing costumes nicely captures the light-hearted nature of the exhibition.
It’s not often you attend an art exhibition which also enhances your knowledge of our local coast and the processes which shape it. I visited this exhibition wearing two hats as manager of the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve but also as a keen printmaker. Both come off in salute. Highly recommended.
Coast: 30 November – 13 January – open daily 10am-4pm