A new midsummer production championing a lost artist and the sea he painted is on offer from ExploreTheArch in St Leonards this August.
The experimental theatre company will reveal the remarkably colorful life of Armenian marine painter Ivan Aivazovsky.
Largely forgotten today in western Europe, Aivazovsky was a highly successful game changer in his lifetime and a celebrity to boot, championed for his brilliant evocation of seas and skies, applying paint to canvas in a way that had not been seen before.
Opening on August 4, two hundred years after Aivazovsky’s birth, The House Of The Man Who Painted The Sea offers a magical evening with ExploreTheArch’s unique and playful paper stage sets nestling amongst the audience. The play is an enchanting kaleidoscope of experiences from carriage rides over vast tracts of Russian steppe with overnight stops at inns with pancake mattress beds and black beetles to sailing the inky seas with Aivaovsky’s Scottish wife. Touching base in Italy, St Petersburg and the Crimea, the audience is whisked through the created house to meet Aivazovksy’s grandson munching the grown ups’ food under a party table when he’s meant to be in bed and the pope choosing one of Aivazovsky’s paintings for the Vatican. With music by the company’s composer, Vladimir Miller, it’s a rich, vibrant jewel of an evening.
Funded by Art Council England and Hastings Borough Council, the production is inspired by the eccentric recollections of Alia Aivazovsky, the painter’s grandson, who fled Russia during the 1917 revolution and lived in Paris before arriving and settling in London. Alia’s notes, stowed in turn in drawers in the two capitals, are a fascinating collection of eccentric, flamboyant, bumptious and incomplete reminiscences charting his grandfather’s rise from humble beginnings to the wealthiest man in his region able to fund initiatives improving living conditions and to leave his fortune to the needy in his town.
Travelling extensively through Europe, the Ottoman Empire, Russia and the States throughout his lifetime, Aivazovsky met an artistic figure the British are more familiar with: seascape painter, JMW Turner. The older Turner’s verdict? This energetic young son of a humble trader would be the stand out creative of his generation. Turner was so excited about Aivazovsky’s paintings that he wrote a poem for Aivazovsky in Italian extolling his genius.
This unique production runs through August at ExploreTheArch’s venue Archer Lodge. Free children’s tickets are available via the website and the evening begins with an opportunity before the play starts to celebrate the act of painting the sea in the venue’s beautiful grounds. Whether you sketch the salt water regularly or you haven’t picked up a crayon or paintbrush to depict the ocean since primary school, the company have a printing process waiting to capture your words about the sea. So, with a glass of wine from the bar (supplied by local company The Wine Shed), immerse yourself in the act of painting the sea and join ExploreTheArch’s celebration. Tickets £12 plus booking fee available at explorethearch.com/manwhopainted
The show is suitable for all ages but recommended for over-6s. Taking place over two floors at the venue, the company regrets that there is no lift.