John Piper@The Towner Gallery

John Piper in Kent & Sussex

2 July – 25 September 2011

Today I went to see the John Piper exhibition at The Towner Gallery in Eastbourne.  The Towner is virtually around the corner from me and as part of my homework is to go see as much art as possible (which I would do anyway!), I went to have a look.

Usually the exhibitions are free.  However there are two exhibitions a year that you need to pay to get in and this is one of them.  The entry fee is £5.50 / £4 concession / under 16s free.  I expect a lot when I have to pay to view art, and this exhibition did not disappoint me.  In fact, I would pay to see it again. I highly recommend going.  Really, this is a rave!

I have come across John Piper’s works before but really didn’t know much about him.  There is a documentary film about him and his work that you can watch and listen with headphones.  I found it very interesting although a bit dated.  I learned how an aquatint was produced and was surprised how complex the procedure was.  It is very time-consuming.  I also learned that Mr. Piper would take liberties in his sketches and not always draw what he saw but would draw an impression of a place.

I found most of the works on display to be quite inspiring in that his early works were not necessarily technically skillful, but interestingly composed.  In fact, many artists at that time produced work that contained an air of naivety about them.  There were similarities of some of his collage work to that of the piece created by Christopher Wood that is in The Rugby Collection that I really liked.  In researching these artists for my blog posts, I have discovered that there were quite a few that have associated with each other at the time and must have been influenced by each other in some way.

I am particularly drawn to artists who were active from the 30’s-50’s.  Although some of the work could be quite abstract, most of it was recognisable and the composition and style is quite distinctive.  I felt a sense of excitement while viewing this exhibition.  Although some works didn’t particularly appeal to me, one can’t be everything to all people, I enjoyed most of them and found the Architectural paintings and aquatints to be quite spectacular, especially as I had more information on how they were produced.

This particular exhibition mainly focuses on work produced in the Kent and Sussex Counties.  There are some lovely works of the Brighton Pavillion.  Piper also designed a stained glass window at St. Peter’s Church in Firle, East Sussex.  You can see the photo I took here.  I am assuming that he was acquainted with Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell who resided at Charleston, which is near to Firle, and who were artists at the same time.  The painting for the stained glass window is on show at this exhibition.

The free exhibition is on the ground floor and entitled Compulsive, Obsessive, Repetitive and runs from 2 July – 18 September 2011.  It is interesting, as is any type of conceptual art exhibition with installations.  You will either like it or hate it, or find it interesting.  I leave that one for you to decide.