The idea for the ‘People’s Choice’ exhibition, currently showing at Jerwood Gallery, Hastings (until 21st May), was inspired by a blogger who wrote about the gallery and Jerwood Collection at the end of last year. They finished off with a plea to show different Jerwood Collection works: ‘Why not get out some different ones from the store?’. In response to reading the blog, I thought, well, why not?
The Jerwood Collection is regularly re-hung at the gallery and in each hang I endeavour to bring out fresh works. I have to admit, however, to having my personal favourites as well as being tasked with a remit to hang specific works at all times. Reading the blog was a catalyst for me to do more than bring out what I thought should be shown in the gallery, and instead turn the curation of a room to the public and launch an online campaign inviting people to say which works they would like to see on display and why.
The ongoing purpose of the Jerwood Collection is to give public access to a privately owned collection and enhance people’s enjoyment and understanding of modern and contemporary British art: an open call, using the Art UK platform, was a great way to get feedback from the public about their favourite works and why they had chosen them. The display was planned to coincide with Jerwood Gallery’s fifth birthday on 17th March 2017 and the campaign was launched through Jerwood’s social media channels at the end of 2016.
It was wonderful to learn the choices but also receive the brilliantly and beautifully written reasons. From the responses received we narrowed down the most popular choices. These are now on display in Room Three and include:
John Wells (1907–2000), Near and Far, chosen by Elizabeth Stevenson, who wrote:
‘Choosing one work is rather like being asked who is my favourite child...having said that Near and Far always catches my eye and I miss it when it’s not on display. For me this picture is dreamy, I love the colours: the green, purple and grey in all their various shades. Looking at it reminds me of lying on my back in a field on a warm day making shapes with the clouds in my mind. Is that a goat-like animal standing with a propeller above its head with a kite beside it? At other times it reminds me of the mind, with the accessible conscious mind that has defined shapes fading into the less accessible unconscious. Who knows. All I can be sure of is that this picture gives me great pleasure’.
Paul Feiler (1918–2013), Chrome & Lemon, chosen by Beatrice Rapley, who wrote:
‘I like it because it feels familiar, comforting, calming and reminds me of childhood holidays at my Uncle Nick's stone cottage in Wales – it has a sort of chalky quality – he likes simple designs and I have sent him the postcard of this image because I imagine he would like it too. I like the simplicity and the title. It's the kind of painting you can come to time and time again and never tire of’.
Mark Gertler (1891–1939), The Irish Yew, chosen by Teresa Sleet, who wrote:
‘When I first saw this painting it annoyed me intensely: why would anyone choose to fill a canvas with a large, almost black tree, right in the middle of a painting?! But, the more I looked at it the more it spoke to me, I saw other things in the painting: buildings, walls, hedges but most of all sunshine and light. I know Mark Gertler was not in a good emotional place when painting it; some people have said the tree resembles a bomb exploding but the darkness of the tree in shadow only highlights the brightness of the sunshine. I now love looking at this painting, the composition may be totally wrong but there is an intensity about it that gives me a good feeling’.
I am very grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to the open call – if any or some of the Jerwood Collection paintings can give someone ‘a good feeling’ we are managing to fulfil our purpose.
Lara Wardle, Director and Curator, Jerwood Collection of Modern & Contemporary British Art