Jerwood Gallery Mural
Earlier this year I was delighted to be asked to design and paint a mural for Jerwood Gallery. The brief was to make something that presented information about becoming a member of the gallery in an engaging and informal way, along with a visually warm illustrative interpretation of a gallery visit.
I genuinely think that the gallery’s membership scheme is great. It’s of huge benefit to have the option to pop in for half an hour here and there. The little unpressured half hours on my own when I drop by, without expectations, are the times I make the best discoveries.
Jerwood Gallery is a place to go and think, wandering around the thoughts of others and being surprised by what you find. In a very real way paintings are thought portals. There are lots of paintings that I’ve got to know at the gallery and the thought journeys go on and on, and get bigger and stranger because they haven’t reached the dreary full stop of ‘I definitely like this’ or ‘I get this’.
To be creatively questioning is to be alive. An art gallery is a place to go and escape the one-answer-is-right limits of test-focussed education or wilfully simplistic mass media. I tried to get all this into the mural in a playful kind of way, with humour and warmth.
My idea was to take the frames away, so the gallery visit is a free flowing journey of thought without barriers. Visitors float around the artwork. For the guy on the ledge who is nervous about diving in (pictured) the objective barriers are gone, but the barriers of our own making are sometimes still there – perhaps ‘diving in’ for him is standing in front of a painting for 20 minutes and trusting his own ideas?
I also took details from paintings in the Jerwood Collection to create the world they explore.
I have painted a figure dancing with John Craxton’s, The Dancer, 1951, who is thinking, ‘at last I hear the dancer sing’ (pictured).
The Dancer is a modest image compared to Craxton’s characteristic romantic landscapes, but every element in it helps us hear the music hidden behind the painting. It takes time to hear it. It’s just the kind of work I’m really glad is here on my doorstep in Hastings, to get to know well.
The characters in my mural are pioneers: exploring, investigating, unearthing pearls of wisdom or pearls of inspiration, hidden in the artwork. It’s ludicrous to think an experience of any artwork has a finite end, so my characters disappear into a thought-scape that goes on and on.
I also had the nerve-wracking job of painting the informational text about the membership scheme on the wall in my higgledy way! The mural is now finished; please take a look when you next visit the gallery.