New Eastbourne arts hub to launch ambitious exhibition

The Devonshire Collective will open fully in Spring SUS-170124-091728001
The Devonshire Collective will open fully in Spring SUS-170124-091728001

The new creative hub in Devonshire Ward will open its gallery doors and cafe space for its launch exhibition on Friday (January 27).

Collective: Greater Than The Sum of The Parts by Devonshire Collective will show the work of 11 artists from London and the South East and also offer a preview of the space and a taste of just part of what is to come.

When it opens fully later in the spring, the Collective will comprise five venues along Seaside Road, all within minutes walking distance 0f each other, providing artists’ studios, maker-spaces, a workshop, as well as the gallery and café.

The exhibition, which runs from January 27 to February 11, explores the wider interpretations of collecting, collections and collective endeavour and showcases drawing, painting, photography, sculpture and video.

The artists are: Hermione Allsopp, Judith Alder (who is also the curator), Rachel Cohen, Susannah Douglas, Axel Hesslenberg, Suzanne O’Haire, Liv Pennington, Victoria Threlfall, Alexandra Valy, Clare Whistler and Charlotte Still.

Hermione Allsopp makes sculptural work by collecting objects and furniture and re-creating them into new forms or compositions.

The objects she uses, she says, are “familiar domestic items that have been discarded in charity or junk shops – not inert materials, but ones that carry collective attachments, memories and meanings”.

Meanwhile, Rachel Cohen’s collection of small paintings describe an old house and the objects that it contains. The paintings are made from photos that span 40 years, of a house where the artist spent childhood holidays and returned only infrequently as an adult.

The Family Silver is a collection of paintings by Victoria Threlfall made in response to the experience of watching her mother slowly lose her memory and decline into dementia.

The paintings were made in anticipation of a time when the family silver, objects connected with her mother and her childhood, would be dispersed or sold off.

The paintings are a commemoration and a celebration of the past, and an attempt to hold on to memory by making a physical representation of something which was slipping away.

This theme of memories and meanings attached to the familiar objects represented in the artists’ work has emerged and grown as the exhibition has developed, with many of the works linked directly or indirectly to family histories and domestic narratives.

The theme seems appropriate for the Devonshire Collective’s opening exhibition, with the DC1 gallery, situated as it is at the heart of the Devonshire community, amongst the century-old shops with living spaces above them, and the nearby terraced houses where generations of Eastbourne residents have lived and worked. Within these town centre dwellings, family histories have been lived out and personal narratives formed throughout the past 100 years or more.

Artists Clare Whistler and Charlotte Still are presenting new work made as part of a collaboration whilst artists in residence in the rather genteel ladies lavatories at Eastbourne’s St Elisabeth’s Church.

Clare and Charlotte have been following an organic process of collaboration since 2012 when their first project, STREAM, began as a search for sources of the River Cuckmere inspired by a simple wish to find out where our drinking water comes from.

Their work includes a video, and a collection of portraits of some of the women of the church community who they met and photographed during their residency at St Elisabeth’s.

Engaging with the community in a different way, artist-curator Judith Alder wanted to offer an opportunity for people to get involved in the exhibition by contributing to a collective installation in the gallery. Judith invited members of the public to contribute their unwanted pencil sharpeners to the project and has gathered a collection of more than 150 sharpeners donated by the public which will be displayed alongside her new drawing installation in the gallery.

With a diverse range of starting points and subject matter, the 11 artists and their works in the COLLECTIVE exhibition are linked by common threads, weaving together their collections of objects, images, people and materials, piecing together scraps of memories and fragments of stories, to create a whole which is greater than the sum of the parts.

When it opens its doors fully in the spring, Devonshire Collective will offer a resource that aims to integrate arts into the regeneration of Devonshire Ward and will involve the Hippodrome Theatre and Leaf Hall as collaborative partners.

As part of the Driving Devonshire Forward initiative, it is designed to create a dynamic, managed collection of businesses and practice which will spearhead an influx of independent retailers and deliver a range of creative projects that attract audiences, provide employment, engage the community as well as fostering well-being and social cohesion.