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Radiator Arts © Ian O'Leary

Radiator Arts © Ian O’Leary

Ian O’Leary’s take on the New Bohemians

Photography exhibitions are coming thick and fast in Hastings and St Leonards this year – and there are more to come. Ian O’Leary has slotted one in at Hastings Arts Forum between the PhotoHastings Summer Show at Stade Hall, Jeremy Llewellyn-Jones at HAF and PhotoHastings’ Photography Festival in October and November. Lauris Morgan-Griffiths reports.

Moving to St Leonards

O’Leary moved to St Leonards in 2019 drawn by the light, the sea, the friendly and welcoming people, the architecture, the crazy creative mix and the general buzz that permeates the air. And then seemed to be surprised to actually  find what a hive of creative talent Hastings and St Leonards actually contained.

As a professional  photographer he ran a commercial studio shooting food mainly for books, magazines and design agencies. Migrating south he was looking for a project that would keep him busy and  produce something useful to show just how varied and amazing the place he had landed in really is.

“Maybe it’s the sea, or the great light, or perhaps it’s the mix of the architecture, or the crazy mixed-up urban landscape and people. Whatever it is, it all blends to make a unique place which provides a home to so many brilliant and talented artists, musicians, poets, actors, dancers, and makers.”

I know I am in danger of being maudlin, but I am hoping against hope, long may it remain so.

Helen Bryant © Ian O'Leary

Helen Bryant © Ian O’Leary

He has certainly gathered together a motley crew of creative characters  – which, of course, characterises Hastings and St Leonards to a tee.

O’Leary stresses, “This is not intended as a comprehensive list, an A-to-Z of local artists, as that would be impossible to complete. It is a collection of creators I stumbled upon, either by personal introduction or through their work.”

The New Bohemians

Why did he call it New Bohemians? This is partly a nod to Bohemia Road, a quietly forgotten area of St Leonards. It’s also a reference to Jonathan Meades’ 1990  documentary In Search of Bohemia. A half hour of vintage Meades that is well worth watching.

Mainly it’s about a strange and unlikely area on the south coast of England that somehow seems to work as a magnet for a host of wonderful, creative people, who rub along with each other, but perhaps don’t really fit in anywhere else.

 This exhibition involves over 30 local creatives, artists, actors, and artisans that he has photographed over the last two years mostly in their working environments. The portraits are exhibited alongside the work of the artists, although not everybody has a physical artwork. Seeing the art alongside the portrait is a great idea since it avoids any head-scratching wondering what sort of artist each one is.

Katie Taylor © Ian O'Leary

Katie Taylor © Ian O’Leary

At the time of writing he was still chasing the last few pieces of art, which some artists have produced  especially for the show. It is a lot of work to hang in HAF, and certainly he was unsure how it was going to all fit together but had faith it would be all right on the night, He hopes the show “will provide an insight into the talent that we are so lucky to have in Hastings and St Leonards.”

Ian O’Leary’s The New Bohemians is at Hastings Arts Forum, 20 Marine Court, TN38 0DX from 7 to 19 September. Opening times: Tues-Sun, 11am-5pm. Launch evening Friday 10th, 6.30-8.30pm, as part of Coastal Currents 2021.

Contributing artists:  Fumico Azuma, Leslie Barker, Anna Bachene, Alice Beadle, Andreas Bleckman, Gail Borrow, Helen Bryant, Tim Can, Column 258, Ian Francis, Ben Fenton, Clare Fletcher, Juliet Grace, Kate Gritton, Robin Holtom, Aaron & Laurence Hosannah, Joc Hare, Alex Leadbeater, Brian Mander, David Murphy, Robin Muckle, Peter O’Donnell, Helen O’Leary, Peter Quinnell, Chris Roskell, Robert Sample, Erica Smith, Yumino Seki, Branka Vrhovski- Stanton, Geoff Wass and Bruce Williams.

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Posted 20:43 Monday, Sep 6, 2021 In: Photography

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