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Christopher Tite “can you hear me?” “yes, you’re lovely” 2019, acrylic on fabriano, 151cmx352cm © Project Art Works

Turner prize nominees Project Art Works at Hastings Contemporary

It felt odd and exhilarating to walk into Hastings Contemporary and straight into, what in effect is, Project Art Works’ recreated studio space. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was delighted to come face to face with large scrolls of paintings hanging in the Foreshore Gallery. Shortlisted for the 2021 Turner Prize, Hastings Contemporary has given locals the opportunity to see the artists’ work in their home town.

It is great credit to Project Art Works that this artist community is one of the nominees for the prize. In spite of the Turner Prize having been mired in controversy over the years it is a highly regarded prize –and a great accolade to be shortlisted.   As one of five art collectives nominated for the Turner Prize 2021 Project Art Works is also exhibiting at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry, 2021 City of Culture.

Mark Lockton, Mark Lying Down, 2020, acrylic on fabriano, 150cmx271cm © Project Art Works

It is stimulating to see the gallery space refashioned into a studio, giving the Project Art Works artists a presence to make work here. Ignition began as a residency in the main gallery space at Hastings Contemporary during the last national lockdown. It must have given a vibrancy and energy to the Gallery that would  otherwise have been silent and empty – with no visitors and only a skeleton work team.

The first impression of the art on the huge hanging paper dangling from the ceiling is how colourful and exuberant it is. I would love to have seen the hive of activity of artists working there, some using the floor as their easel, others the walls.

My eyes hone into the different shapes and colours and then tune into the work of  individual artists. Lozenges of precise colours make up two of Christopher Tite’s paintings, one lyrically called “can you hear me?” “yes, you’re lovely”.  Expressionist paintings, some are explosions of tones, some very strictly defined colours. Although many artists chose a palette of colours some artists prefer a narrower spread of tones. Connor Ashley has chosen bright pink and dark colours in his Untitled work and Sam Smith uses joyful spirals of turquoise.

Sean Ormonde, Tusks, 2021 acrylic on fabriano, 240cmx420cm © Project Art Works

Sean Ormonde, Tusks, 2021 acrylic on fabriano, 240cmx420cm © Project Art Works

They are not all abstracts. Mark Lockton’s Mark lying down is exactly what it says, painting himself into a bright pink backdrop. There are a few self porrtaits. In Marion Willis’ self portrait it looks as if she has painted the vibrant greens of her shirt top and red hair, directly on to the paper, however, closer inspection reveals under the acrylic, drawn pencil marks of her face. And Charlie Stephens is a monoprint of her portrait etched into pink.

Known as a happy, creative colour, pink seems to be a colour of choice.

Although Project Art Works did not label any of the paintings specifically with names, there is a sheet that attributes the artists to their works. It is probably unfair to name a few because the work is so effervescent and creative.

And they are all artists.

Margaret Willis, Self Portrait,2019, acrylic on fabriano 151cmx141cm © Project Art Works

Margaret Willis, Self Portrait,2019, acrylic on fabriano 151cmx141cm © Project Art Works

Yet there are a few I would single out. Eden Kötting with her Momento Mori, which means the inevitability of death, comprising symbols of time counting down: skull, flowers, a clock. Michelle Roberts’ wonderfully detailed painting Toy Story of beautifully painted toy creatures; and Sean Ormonde’s Tusks is a beautifully controlled painting of colour and shapes.

CEO and Artist Director of Project Art Works Kate Adams says “We are thrilled that the contribution neurodivergent artists make to cultural life has been recognised by the Turner Prize curatorial team.  Hosting our exhibition at Hastings Contemporary gives people the opportunity to see the work made in our residency earlier this year and join in our celebration of this nomination.

In their description of the Turner Prize 2021 shortlist,The Tate wrote “Project Art Works is a collective of neurodiverse artists and makers based in Hastings. They explore art through collaborative practice with, for and by neurominorities and disseminate their work through exhibitions, events, films and digital platforms …The jury praised their continuing work through the pandemic, both online and in a residency at Hastings Contemporary where passers-by could still encounter work by the collective through the windows of the closed gallery.”

Sam Smith Untitled, 2020 © Project Art Works

Sam Smith Untitled 2020 © Project Art Works

Project Arts Works was founded in 1996 by artists Kate Adams and Jon Cole, to bring together a team of artists with people who have complex needs, including children, young people and adults with autism, learning disabilities and neurological impairment. It provides artists with art materials and appropriate assistance in a safe place to facilitate whatever the artist/maker requires.

Ignition – the exhibition is at Hastings Contemporary, Rock-a-Nore, Hastings TN34 3DW,until February 2022. Open Wed-Sun 11am-5pm. Booking is advisable. The Turner Prize winner will be announced on 1 December.

You can find out more at the Project Art Works and Hastings Contemporary websites. More HOT articles about Project Art Works can be read here.

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Posted 18:24 Wednesday, Nov 3, 2021 In: Arts News

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