By Dan Thompson
More than 450 works by Kent artists will fill Turner Contemporary’s Open, an exhibition where all the work was chosen by the local community.
Some 1400 amateur and professional artists who live, work, or studied in Kent submitted 4200 works. Members of community groups Age UK Thanet, Canvas 4 Equality, Margate Pride, and the Turner Contemporary Access Group volunteered their time as curators. Due to the pandemic, they had to view every work online to make their selection, before meeting in real life to plan the layout of the exhibition.
Each community group has filled one of Turner Contemporary’s upstairs gallery spaces with very different collections of artwork. They include sculpture, painting, ceramics and photography and internationally renowned artists such as Tracey Emin, Rose Wylie and Margo Selby sit alongside keen amateurs.
“For years, the Turner Contemporary Access Group have worked as volunteers to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy visiting the gallery and experience the work it shows, and the Turner Contemporary Open 2021 is a great expression of that philosophy,” the group said, “opening the doors to everyone and bringing together a broad and diverse collection of work by artists across Kent. We’re pleased to have been a part of curating an exhibition which is built on the principles we champion”.
Age UK Thanet said, “We are not the stereotypical group that everyone assumes we are. Each generation faces unique challenges and opportunities. We want to show that our journey is far from ‘grey’; lives lived are full of resilience, wisdom, humour, and adventure! We wanted to share our individual perspectives and create an exhibition that champions the colour throughout one’s life.
“This curatorial process has been exciting, and not to mention, priceless. As a group, our confidence has been built, we’ve learnt new skills and each of us have contributed in the best way we can. We may not be specialists, but we feel this process has proved that together we can achieve great things.”
Canvas 4 Equality added: “We are so excited for people to view our selection: we hope it disrupts, inspires and holds close the people wandering through the gallery space.”
While Margate Pride said: “Margate Pride celebrates the other, and through our selection process we sought out the queer and alternative: imagery, visions, forms and actions that others may find bizarre and unusual but speak directly to our senses and experiences of life.”
The first Turner Open took place in 2009-10 in the Turner Contemporary Project Space. the former M&S store on Margate High Street. Ten artists from this original Open exhibition also feature in the 2021 exhibition. They include Carole Andrews, Dan Bass, Shelly Goldsmith, Hannah Lees, Nicole Mollett, and Rose Wylie.
There are also many talented Thanet artists and photographers with work on show including photographers Eleanor Marriott, from Ramsgate and Frank Leppard, from Margate, artists Mick Cairns,Lesley Gray and Suzanne Curtis, all from Ramsgate, installation Departures by Margate artist and editor, Jessica Jordan-Wrench and Broadstairs-based printmaker, Ieuan Edwards.
An artist from the Traveller community, Phien O’Phien, forwarded a piece to Turner Contemporary via its call-out and this was selected. His work was constructed on a piece of board salvaged from the refurbishment of an iconic building in Thanet. Phien usually exhibits work on social issues, recently exhibiting a show at the Margate School Gallery on the death of homeless people on the streets of England.
Turner Contemporary’s Open exhibition runs from October 23 – February 20, 2022, and during this period Turner Contemporary is also partnering with Southeastern railway to show images of many of the artworks at stations around Thanet.