Artists putting themselves in the picture

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AGAINST the familiar and ancient Hastings back-drops of the black net huts and fishing boats local artist Katherine Reekie places recognised images from famous artworks within her canvases, peopling the Old Town beach with characters from the world’s great art collections, with arresting and thought-provoking effect. A phrase that can also be applicable to “The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book”, which features Katherine’s paintings, along with those of other artists, as well contributions by many writers, including poet Joe Fearn and writer Kay Green, who published the book under her own banner, Earlyworks Press. The book was launched before the opening of the Hastings Jerwood Art Gallery on the historic Stade, an event presaged by a long period of hostility from locals and much financial, legal and political debate. In her introduction to the book Kay Green considers how difficult it is for a novice viewer of art like herself to write about it and that even artists find the same thing when it comes to their own work. In the Hastings Modern Art Beach Book Kay Green addresses the question of how to look at art and the problems it creates, especially to those, like herself, who approach the situation as a wordsmith. She said:

“Hastings has a tremendous range of artists and always has had. A lot of them are festival people who combine costume, drama, drumming and dance with the creation of pictures, garlands and banners and giant figures. This ad hoc community has never seen itself in the same light as the more conventional artists who have lived and worked in the town. If you say ‘art gallery’ Hastings people tend to think of the many local shops we have selling pictures of fishing boats.” Kay said that she was one of the many who got involved in the debate about the new gallery and did not even notice that people were not talking about art, until in 2010 at Hastings Arts Forum she saw Katherine Reekie’s “Art on the Beach.” (The exhibition was one of the founding inspirations for The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book. To make a point, for one day only, Katherine had displayed her paintings, hung on the net huts. Poet Joe Fearn chose to approach the question of art via found objects, which also feature in Katherine’s work. He visited the Fishermen’s Museum to look at the fascinating display of objects that have been caught in fishing nets over the years. The first items to catch his eye were not the ships’ anchors, tools, pots and stone vessels dating back a hundred years or so, but a cork cricket ball, trawled up five miles out to sea. The most poignant objects were those from the First and Second World Wars, but are these art? Or is art appreciation so personal it cannot be contained, as one young visitor to the Jerwood Gallery demonstrates. Generously colour-illustrated and combining short stories with art-related observations and poetry, The Hastings Modern Beach Art Book is available, price £12.99 at Bookbuster, 39 Queen’s Road