Wednesday, 15 June 2016

SoCo Showcase at the Hastings Art Forum

The SoCo Artists Showcase, which has just opened at the Hastings Art Forum is a wide ranging exhibition with works of drama, beauty, intrigue and fear. 

Curated by Jean Davey Winter, Jenny Painter and Roz Cran, the show has paint, print, etching, textile and installation works from 11 artists and features wax, perspex, compost, aluminium, wool and some materials I can't identify with any certainty. 

Standing on the right as you enter, Sarah Heenan's interlocking sculptural geometry is so huge it actually alters your perception of the whole gallery space. On the opposite side are Helen Scalway's models which may share a theme but are made of materials so different that each is its own little mystery.  Nicely juxtaposed on the wall behind, Sally Cole's fluid painting seems barely contained within its frame. 

Fluidity also distinguishes Stephanie Fawbert's five large portraits of children that gaze straight at you with a child's directness as you walk into the second gallery space. All of these atmospheric works have the appearance of being unfinished yet each is a very clearly defined and complete character. 

From a distance Heather Collins' sculptural pieces look like they have been picked up on the beach and carried into the gallery.  The hard and weathered look of rust, shells, barnacles and seaweed strands on ancient driftwood is so intense you can almost smell it. As you get closer it's hard to believe that these textures and effects all emerge from soft materials and incredibly detailed, complex and colourful stitch work. 

The use of colour and intricately laced pattern in Kathleen Mullaniff's work is subtle and beautiful and being positioned between the silvery and monochromatic themes of John Booth enhances the work of both. Booth's etchings, some on aluminium and others on paper, are precisely executed and reassuringly matter of fact in their communication of mortality and human darkness. 

This darkness turns to fear in the splashed blood red of Angie Braven's three pieces that leave no doubt at all about the visceral horror of female genital mutilation.

Much of the work in this show, however, is characterised by limited use of colour or muted abstractions of it and these subtleties flow gently in and out of each other as you wander around the gallery space. 

John Hacker's earthy tones in perspex cases suggest Babylonian tablets. The quartet of drawings beside them pulls you into a delicate harmony of greys.  Anny Evason's abstracted and minimal landscapes dance before your eyes and there is an ethereal quality to Maggie Henton's group of nine text and graphic prints on the theme of the shipping forecast and potential loss at sea.

This is my first SoCo Showcase and it's a fascinating and enjoyable introduction to the work of this group. However, there are actually more than 50 individual pieces of art in this show so it's impossible to convey the full scope of it here. It just has to be seen.

SoCo Showcase at the Hastings Art Forum is on now until June 26th. 

For interviews with the artists please see the SoCo blog


  1. I don't know if this is actually my kind of show or not but this well-written preview made me interested.