Latest exhibition brings colour to the gallery walls

Basil Beattie, Ascent (2012) � the artist
Basil Beattie, Ascent (2012) � the artist

The main room of the Jerwood Gallery is looking as good as I’ve ever seen it, thanks to nine large and colourful abstract paintings by Basil Beattie RA.

These are the more remarkable for having all been made during 2012/13. Aged 78 now, Beattie clearly has plenty of creative energy left: perhaps the recurring theme of stairs and ladders suggests his determination to continue upward and onward?

Just outside, two sets of smaller works on paper reinforced the sense of freedom of expression that I gained in the main room. As a newcomer to Beattie’s art, I was reminded that there’s always something fresh and enchanting to be discovered out there.

An introductory wall text suggests that Beattie was much influenced by Philip Guston, and the Jerwood has done well in enabling us to judge for ourselves, with the loan of a set of the American artist’s lithographs from a private collection. The influence wasn’t obvious to me, but this was a welcome opportunity to see work typical of one phase of Guston’s career. He was a troubled spirit whose art often has a sinister edge, although you can also find some humorous relief, as in ‘Painter’ which is included here.

While Beattie and Guston may be the better known names, I found the account of Marlow (Marjorie) Moss in the third room downstairs just as intriguing. Tate have put together a small touring show of works and ephemera which illustrates the influences on Moss’s art, and her struggle for recognition. The influences (especially Mondrian’s) are clear, but while the work here may lack originality it is all of high quality, with the sculptural pieces particularly impressive. And any artist hoping to ‘break through’ will appreciate the poignancy of Moss’s letters to Ben Nicholson. They went unanswered.

Admission to the three shows is £3 for Hastings residents and £8 for visitors from outside the Borough: that includes the changing displays from the permanent collection upstairs and a free return visit within 12 months. If the Jerwood maintains the standard and interest of its current shows it will be well worth going back.