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The House of the Man who Painted the Sea is the latest Explore the Arch productiion

The House of the Man who Painted the Sea is the latest Explore the Arch productiion

The House of the Man who painted the Sea

ExploreTheArch’s summer show opens on Friday 4 August in St Leonards celebrating the act of painting the sea and a marine artist largely unknown in this corner of the world. Erica Smith investigates the background to this project which marks the UNESCO 200th anniversary of Armenian Ivan Aivazovsky’s birth.

00explorethearch-flyerSeven months ago East Sussex’s experimental theatre company had a remarkable meeting with some words. It took place over a white melamine cafe table in a London borough. The words were accompanied by a dynamo of a 90-year old whose hands were flying over his laptop keyboard conjuring photographs of the author. “These words are not easy. They come from an impetuous hand.”

The words had been stuffed in drawers in Paris and London by the nonogarian’s Great Uncle Alia, a man on the move as he had begun to rebuild its life after fleeing the Russian revolution in 1917 first to Constantinople and then to western Europe. Impetuosity had probably kept the soldier and poet alive during his escape.  It had certainly been responsible for the longevity of the man he had written about: his grandfather, a nineteenth century romantic painter who lived on the shores of the Black Sea.

Why this choice of words as the catalyst for the August production? “The words offer an fascinating insight into the life of the extraordinarily successful artist who won over the courts of Europe with his work,” explains company’s composer Vladimir Miller.  “From an early age Aivazovsky  was recognized as outstanding.  An elderly JWM Turner wrote a poem in Italian to him when he was twenty seven, hailing him a genius.  Ivan Aivazovsky worked with unbelievable speed and vigour and travelled tirelessly with exhibitions in all the places you’d expect of a contemporary artist: Paris, Berlin, the States.”

00explorethearch-promo3ExploreThe Arch’s signature paper sets and kinetic models, worlds of string, eyelets and handles’ do seem an ideal match.  The music, newly composed by Vladimir, is vivid and mischievous too-it highlights the fragmented nature of the reminiscences.  Funded by Arts Council England and Hastings Borough Council, the cast has more professional musicians than in previous shows and it’s a rich sensory experience.

“Championing the plight of the poor and bestowing generously on the needy, Aivazovsky’s worthy of our attention for his kindnesses,” muses artist Royston du Maurier Lebek.  “But it’s the fact that he was capable of letting his halo slip that really endears him to us. Anton Chekhov met Aivazovsky in his final years and summed him up as ‘a general, a bishop, an artist, an Armenian, a naive old peasant and an Othello. He is friendly with Sultans, Shahs, and Amirs.’  This opinion may be more iluminating of Chekhov than Aivazovsky but the complexity of the artist is clear.  So join us this summer and decide for yourself!”

Running though August, the pre-show experience is in the grounds of Archer Lodge, the beautiful venue where the company curate their unique shows. “There’s an opportunity before the show begins to respond to the sea using the printing technique that artist Emma Harding has developed for the depiction of the writing in the performance.  Gates open at 7pm and The Wine Shed is offering a cash bar.  The audience promenade through the House of the Man who Painted the Sea from 7.30pm, dwelling in three rooms over two floors before finishing on the charming terrace on the other side of the property. Regrettably there is no lift at the Victorian venue.

The free children’s tickets get snapped up quickly so early booking is essential. And in partnership with South Eastern Rail, the company will have an interactive display at St Leonards Warrior Square Station throughout August, a chance to articulate what the sea means to you.

This exuberant production runs from Friday 4 August and tickets (£12 plus booking fee) are available from the company’s website. Doors 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

and from Bobos Flowers, 45b London Road, St Leonards on Sea (cash sales only, no booking fee). Please contact the company with any access questions or requirements on

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Posted 19:57 Wednesday, Jul 26, 2017 In: Performance

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