Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Christopher Maxwell-Stewart, founder and outgoing Chairman of the Burtons’ St Leonards Society

Painting the Town exhibition celebrates H&StL creativity

A new exhibition in the Town Centre shows what a profusion of talent flourishes in Hastings and St Leonards. The local residents portrayed show that. So does the artist of Painting the Town. Bernard McGinley reports.

St Andrews Mews (between Queens Road and St Andrews Square) is changing. Upstairs is the Mews Gallery, a old suite of rooms in the process of restoration. The gallery’s present show is a celebration of the creative people of Hastings and St Leonards and the unique features here. The portraits are strong, innovative, varied and repaying of attention. All are 1.22 metres (4 feet) square, acrylic on plywood.

Painting the Town

The exhibition is dedicated to one such creative person, the late Pete Brown, the poet and singer admired by Martin Scorsese and very many others. Among the talented people represented are:

retired fisherman Bert Golding on the Stade in a flurry of feathers 

Judy Dewsbury of the arts centre by St Mary’s Terrace, portrayed as ‘Creative Beacon’

Christopher Maxwell-Stewart (pictured top) aligned with the symmetrical Doric grandeur of South Lodge, St Leonards Gardens.

captain of torches Mark French of the Hastings Bonfire Society, in a swirl of flame and smoke, grime and faces

renowned photographer Bruce Rae, intent in the red glow of a darkroom

engineer Peter Wheeler, with a heavy spanner.

Peter Wheeler (detail): a big spanner under Hastings Pier

A portrait of the artist

Stephen Coelho began Painting the Town early in 2019, inspired by the unique features of Hastings and St Leonards, as a way to document and celebrate them. Covid and lockdown affected progress, and changed the treatment and extent of the collection. The final number was 18 portraits. 

Coelho is a figurative painter who now lives and works in St Leonards. His portraiture is carefully considered: draughtsmanship borne of rigorous observation and patient interrogation will always be (he insists) of fundamental importance. There is the distant echo of a past life as an art director, inherited genes that lend his work in terms of form at least a measure of graphic grit. Asked about his influences he mentioned Lucian Freud, Walter Sickert, Toulouse-Lautrec, and also Olga Boznanska ‘only just discovered’:

a contemporary of the late Impressionists and Post Impressionists and could hold her own with the best of them.

Born in India, Stephen Coelho has lived in Britain since the age of five in Suffolk, Essex, London, East Sussex, Cornwall, and also for a time in France.

His current project is based on the 2023-24 programme of headlining musicians to play that year at Jazz Hastings:

a way of shining a light on Jazz Hastings, the much loved local jazz club on the Stade which puts on the best in national and international jazz every month and is run on a voluntary non-profit basis.

Darius Brubeck there on 12 December proves his point. A calendar of visiting excellence (12 portraits) to complement the first collection (18) will ensue.

Operator Bernadette Martin beholds the net shops from the East Hill funicular


Painting the Town runs from 8 November to Sunday 24 December, Wednesdays to Sundays from 11am till 4pm. The exhibition has free admission.

The website has further information. The artist in the foreword there states of the exhibition:


Citizens, councillors and the curious should go. 

(The contributor is a member of the Burtons’ St Leonards Society.)

Bruce Rae (detail): at work in black and white

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Posted 12:04 Friday, Nov 17, 2023 In: Visual Arts

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