Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

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Last chance to take a peek

If you haven’t already done so, get your skates on and go and see Sharon Haward’s PEEK installation – white voile sheets flapping in the wind just up St John’s Road from Warrior Square station – which comes to the end of its run on Wednesday 25 May. Sharon and Christine Gist, curator of The Space, in which the installation is housed, give their thoughts on the work.

Despite the recent influx of DFL’s to St Leonards, stripping out, fitting-up, grey-painting properties in this once grand 19th century resort developed by architect James Burton and his son Decimus, there are still many streets and alleyways with well-composed houses that hide their fine ratios and decorative flourishes beneath a veneer of unloved crumbling stucco and air of turbid distraction.

It is within this context of shifting ownership and the many traces of short-lived occupancy that artist Sharon Haward has created PEEK. A resident in the area for over 20 years, Haward has observed the changing face of St Leonards and Hastings over that last 10 years and has created a response to a less gentrified and definable part of town.

The Space, a few minutes’ walk from Warrior Square Station, courtesy of Network Rail’s Community Scheme, which encourages the temporary use of disused sites, has been run by curator Christine Gist for four years. “Sharon’s project is the first in the 2016 series of artists’ installations and events which will transform the site through October. We hope this dramatic work is being enjoyed by the local community and passers-by who discover Haward’s installation,” she says.

PEEK2“Our sense of home is reinforced by our ability to look out of the window at the garden or the street,” says Haward. “To see and be seen or peek out, unseen. Separated by flimsy stuff, we might feel safe and secure on the one side and on the other side exposed. In the context of this site, the curtains here flee their passive role as mediators between inside and outside, they are set free to animate and transform the everyday reality of The Space, inviting an expanded reading of the site.”

The often maligned net curtain offers a range of readings – from the desire of the owner to make a place a home, to separate unknown interior lives from the outside world, to hide and simultaneously to observe unseen, to blur the boundary between an expressive space and a more formal public space – all these interpretations offer scope for scrutiny and exploration. Donna Harraway wrote in the 80’s about feminism and hybrid organisms, and her phrase that captures the spirit of PEEK is the idea of ‘confusing boundaries’ – the role of the artist here is not necessarily to describe or explain a response but rather to engage interest, to challenge the norm and to reflect on the nature domestic objects and their power to transform space.

Once constructed, the most surprising element of PEEK is its fluid and flighty nature, the wind lifts and pulls at the fine voile, in one moment rushing at it with force, churning up the flimsy fabric and in the next rippling softly through it. It is barely still, it captures a sense of noncompliance and of trying to take flight. A local resident noted, “It’s brilliant, I can see it from my flat and I’ve been mesmerised by its continual movement.”


PEEK The Space, St John’s Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN37. To Wed 25 May – visible from dawn to dusk from the road.

Sharon Haward’s website


Posted 12:34 Tuesday, May 24, 2016 In: Visual Arts

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