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Hastings artists go wild in Venice

Every two years, Venice is taken over by international artists: art in the churches, in palazzos, in industrial buildings. Anywhere you can install a sculpture, hang a painting or have a performance is part of the Venice Biennale. Exhibiting amongst the colony of artists are not one, but four Hastings and St Leonards artists, Danny Pockets, Maslen&Mehra and Shuby. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths spoke to Jennifer Maslen about their experience.

The group were in Venice for about a week installing the exhibition in a beautiful palazzo, overlooking the water between the two Biennale hotspots, the Giardino and the Arsenale. Part of an exhibition of about 100 international artists curated by Vanya Balogh, the theme’s show is disquiet – the 56th Venice Biennale is entitled The Fall of the Rebel Angels.

Sounds apt for Hastings.

Danny Pockets

Danny Pockets.

There is a loose connection between the four artists; they had all worked, at different times, in London at the Bows Art Trust. And they had no idea they had all drifted south to Hastings and St Leonards until Jennifer Maslen was painting her front door and a passerby commented on the colour. And it turned out to be Danny Pockets, who lived just  around the corner.

All four artists work in mixed media – paint, photography, print, collage, light and sound – happily crossing and jumbling boundaries, as they look at culture and the changing environment, taking a serious, curious, fresh, ironic, kitsch view of the world.

Maslen  Mehra - Border Control

Maslen&Mehra – Border Control.

Maslen&Mehra’s exhibit for Venice is Border Control. It is a timely, relevant papier mâché sculpture about the ideas that polarize people about migrants’ desperate attempts – risking their lives – to get to Europe. Maslen explains: “Our work is not necessarily political, more philosophical and poetic. But this project has allowed a more particular narrative. Our exhibit is about the tragic elements (trafficking, hundreds drowning) and extreme views (withdrawing help, closing borders), which we’ve tried to explain.” While a distressing topic that strongly divides opinion, Maslen is optimistic that the huge outcry has – and will – translate into more support in the Mediterranean.

Hastings-ites may not be travelling to Venice, but these artists’ work will also be part of the Towner summer show. For the Towner, Maslen&Maher are entering new territory by collaborating with Shuby, on a larger piece – Cash – “about money made from war, the housing bubble and the banks’ bail out”. It means the duo making their work and then, literally, letting it go and allowing Shuby to augment their work with her own interpretation and thoughts.

Four artists in Venice

Four artists in Venice.

So what were their impressions of Venice? It opened the group to a massive audience of different artists. “We met lots of friends, met new people, made new friends and it certainly gave us a new platform and possibility for more projects, which we might not have been considered for before”.

And what of Hastings? Has that made a difference to the work? “It’s more relaxed and not so pressured. There’s more space and more time, which allows things to happen more naturally”.

Good old Hastings. Feeding creativity in its own anarchic way to all artists, as well as these international artists exhibiting at the Venice Biennale, the Towner Eastbourne and points in between.

The Fall Of the Rebel Angels, Castello 1610/A, Venezia 30122, Italy. Until Wednesday 24 June. The exhibition is supported by Bath SPA and the University Of East London.

Towner Contemporary Art Museum, Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ. The Towner East Sussex Open will run from 11 July to 20 September.

For more information, see

Posted 17:49 Thursday, Jun 4, 2015 In: Arts News

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