the beach with her art
the art with his poetry
some common questions about modern art into some galleries
poetry, paintings, articles and ideas from friends we met along
ISBN 978 1 906451
£12.99 p&p FREE to UK
Katherine Reekie and Joe Fearn launch the book in
Kay says, "I was the guinea pig in this project. Like a lot of people in Hastings, I knew very little about modern art and was very suspicious of the whole 'scene'. I first got involved when I went to see Katherine's collection at Hastings Arts Forum. I got talking to Joe, already an experienced arts commentator, about how difficult it is for 'outsiders' to see what's going on in the art world. Next thing I knew, I was wandering around art galleries in Edinburgh and London, trying to educate myself on the subject, and reporting back experiences which ranged from baffling through infuriating to utterly amazing."
The three have presented their conclusions, along with a range of opinions on Hastings and art by local commentators such as creative community moderator
Erica Smith, social policy researcher Peter Saunders, and art promoter
Lesley Samms. There is also a range of Hastings- and/or
beach-themed work and commentary by writers and artists such as beach artist Laetitia Yhap, illustrators Ian Ellery and Cathy Simpson and poet Sandra Burdett.
of Katherine's 'Art on the Beach' collection...
Lautrec on the Beach © 2010 Katherine Reekie
on the Beach
© 2010 Katherine Reekie
at Hastings Online Times
The book is available from Waterstone's Hastings, the Hastings Information Office,
The Jerwood Gallery, the De La Warr in Bexhill and the Towner in Eastbourne, or you can order by post, by
Creative Media Centre,
45 Robertson St, Hastings,
Sussex TN34 1HL
or order direct using Paypal...
20th Century Art in Hastings
article from our previous Hastings anthology, 'Visions of Hastings', tells the story of how the 'Hastings Modern Art Beach Book' came to be...
text © 2010
K Green, pictures ©
2010 K Reekie
Hastings is a wonderful and terrible place. It's bung full of music, poetry, art and street-drama, and it's been at war with itself since long before 1066. There's no helping this. Just like good friends who are constantly fighting, if you try to help, they turn on you. Perhaps they're enjoying the battle too much to give it up.
Perhaps it’s because of The Stade. There is one set of laws to cover the ownership and access to land, and a different set to cover the same issues in the case of beaches. Where onshore drift causes a build-up of shingle which becomes sufficiently embedded to deserve the name 'land', what you have is what lawyers would probably call an on-going earning opportunity and what everyone else would call outright war. Which may be why our Stade has so often been a frontline in local battles.
Breugal on the Beach © 2010 Katherine Reekie
The current row could be described as old v new, or east v west, or fishermen v council – but that's all been done to death. I'm going to look upon it as the tragic story of the toilets. I once read a deadly serious article in a Sunday paper which expressed the opinion that you could judge how much a local authority cared about its citizens by studying the quality and availability of public toilets. In this case, I don’t know how much of the credit goes to the local authorities and how much to the attendant who demonstrated both pride and imagination in her care of the toilets at the coach park in the old town. I’m talking about the ladies here. I daresay the gents was pretty good too but I’m afraid I’m not equipped to judge.
So when they said they were going to close the coach park on the Stade and pull down the toilets that served it, I was pretty annoyed. Had I been running a stall or a ride on the seafront, I expect I’d have been annoyed about the coach park, but I wasn’t. I just thought:
“It’s all very well to say the toilets will be replaced, but WHEN will they be replaced, and will they be replaced by 24 hour toilets, with lights, and an attendant, and flowers, and hot and cold water and friendly advice on tap for anyone who asks?"
It took some time for it to sink in that they were clearing out that area of the Stade because some big artsy organisation wanted a site for a gallery. I didn’t know the name ‘Jerwood’. That’s a big, outside world thing. I wasn’t born in Hastings, but I have enough of a Hastings attitude that I am far more aware of the on-going, hydra-headed battle between traditionalists and modernisers than I am of the larger world of the arts. I could talk for hours about who is allowed to use which bits of the Stade for what purposes. It’s far more interesting than the endless arguments over philosophical issues like ‘what is art?’
It covers things like lifeboats and tourists and toilets and the fishermen’s traditions – such as the reason for the tall, thin net shops – you may hear all sorts of fancy ideas about ways of hanging the old nets to dry (the nets are nylon now, and drying isn’t such an issue) but if you listen for long enough, you’ll hear about a dispute (hundreds of years ago) over rental prices on the beach and the ensuing competition to see just how much workshop space could be built vertically on just how small a bit of shingle. Best of all is the tale of the America Ground – where, hearing about the newly won independence of the United States and, having a convenient stars-and-stripes flag to hand, the fishing community once took matters into their own hands with considerable spirit and declared the beach to be an independent country.
So I wasn’t thinking that much about art galleries until, whilst I was organising the reading of the ‘Visions of Hastings’ competition entries, I met Katherine
Reekie. At the time, she was searching in vain for any indication of just what would be inside the planned gallery. ‘Twentieth century art,’ they said – but which twentieth century art? And, as time passes, will we be allowed to have some twenty-first century art as well, or is the gallery to become a period piece in itself? On 27th May 2010, the exhibition of her questions, called ‘Art on the Beach’ opened at Hastings Arts Forum. I translated the questions into words for the Hastings Observer thusly…
Katherine decided to have a go at putting twentieth century art in Hastings – her exhibition consists of things like Breugel figures on Hastings beach, Picasso fractal beach huts, Matisse's orange people dancing round the net shops, Chagal's fiddler playing to a goat sitting by an RX fishing boat, some Henry Moore rocks at the bottom of the cliffs...
It's really stuck in my mind. Talk about art talking! There was one of that northern woman with the ironing board standing on the West Hill and one of that South American lady with the eyebrows sunbathing by the pier, missing some of her innards, and one of a fisherman's hut with what appeared to be perfectly ordinary fisherman's clutter in it, until the glove hanging behind the door caught my attention and I found myself going over the words of a certain Marilyn Francis poem about De
Chirico... and loads more which I recognised but wouldn't have been able to put a name to.
Speaking as one who's completely devoid of art education, it's made me realise how many international images I have filed away in my mind. It's a clear statement to Hastings, it says, “you haven't really been thinking about twentieth century art. You've just been having a planning argument. Here's how to start thinking about twentieth century art and whether you want some of it.”
In my singularly uninformed list, I really should have included the flamey lady walking past the shelter opposite the Mermaid Café. I really liked that picture – I really liked the shelter. I had a very important assignation there once. Actually, it was a tragic, ‘Dear Jane’ assignation but there you go – it was important – and I was terribly worried that the Jerwood building site would reduce it to rubble.
Meanwhile, I have been running a creative writing course on Tuesday mornings out at Ore and who should turn up on my register but the erstwhile lavatory attendant who won the ‘Best Loos in the South East’ award for the toilets in her care. Fancy her being unemployed… but she’s not unemployed, she just hasn’t got a job. She’s proving to be as valuable, and as startlingly original as a story-weaver as she was as a toilet attendant. Hastings is like that – fizzing with that thing that creates music, stories and pictures but in Hastings, I hesitate to call it ‘creativity’ or ‘the arts’ because that sort of talk will have heckles and hackles rising all over. The thing Hastings does doesn’t require arts degrees, doesn’t like being tidied up and will send you home with an earache if you tell it what to do.
So, like a lot of people in Hastings, I am interested in, but rather wary of, developments on the
Stade. Please can we have the fishing fleet and space for the fascinating clutter that is boys ashore at work, space for the tourists and their suppliers, some clean, well-lit and safe, 24-hours-a-day
loos, the very-important shelter and a gallery that doesn’t charge London prices to tell us all about modern art?
That was all over a year ago now. The new toilets have opened,
there is a new cafe, the gallery is beginning to look more like a
gallery than a building site. The current argument is mostly about the ownership of a scrap of land on which the electricity generator for the site stands. I have spent a lot of time
learning about art galleries, Joe Fearn has spent a lot of time looking at boats and talking to people who work on the beach, and Katherine has painted a lot more pictures. All the time, all of us continue to be amazed, outraged, delighted and baffled by the relationship between Hastings, Modern Art, the beach, art galleries and the words and the pictures of all
involved, many of which we've collected as part of the journey.
hope you enjoy the book as much as we enjoyed the journey. - Kay