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Oscar’s, Las Vegas Beef, Booze, Broads, an apt description of Las Vegas © Brian Rybolt

Two worlds on view at Hastings Arts Forum

Most people feel reluctant to travel in these landlocked Covid times. Yet it is still possible to ‘travel’ to various places in memory while exploring documentaries, films, food in Italian, Spanish, French, Indian restaurants. And at exhibitions. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths explored the Two Worlds art exhibition at Hastings Arts Forum – the work of photographer Brian Rybolt and mixed media artist Jean Davey Winter.

Rybolt hails from Los Angeles and as a portrait and architecture commercial photographer has travelled widely. Now he is able to indulge his love of travel pursuing his personal work – visiting such diverse places as Antarctica, Iceland and Greenland. Davey Winter was born in the UK but “has an on-going desire to ‘get away’ and to travel” which proves a constant stimulus to her work.

Nocturne © Jean Davey Winter

Nocturne © Jean Davey Winter

The exhibition features Las Vegas and Cuba. You would expect the two places to be inimical to each other. Yet somehow they happily gel. Possibly because both artists have avoided the obvious, concentrating instead on the underbelly of the two places, the whiff and atmosphere that permeate the areas.

Oddly, having grown up in LA, Rybolt had only known Las Vegas through television and film, particularly the downtown area of Fremont Street. This was the street where the first famous casinos, the neon and the notorious Rat Pack, celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, hung out and was popularised in 60s and 80s television series, films and photographs. He wasn’t sure what to expect when he eventually visited. “Weirdness is everywhere, in the lives and architecture of the place. A lot of the time it appears ironic or surreal to me.”

DNA Test © Brian Rybolt

Entering the gallery I felt eyes watching me – giant eyes atop a large tower, a large model of a cowboy, his upturned ‘begging’ hat in his outstretched arms, two Bunny girls, one with an ear askew, eyes bright, beaming happily.

Then, walking slowly down the wall, it is evident that Rybolt has steered clear of the bright, brash face of the commercial, marketing dream, Las Vegas. I smiled at the image of a skyscraper with the word ‘RUMP’ straddling the top – having lost its T – or been helped along by Rybolt himself. As an American it seemed appropriate.

He has featured the faded casinos, the characters who have been attracted to the city, the religious freaks, a bearded woman, an individual sporting a ‘onesie’ over his genitals, others having fallen on hard times, some finding creative ways to ask for money. He wandered around, looking individuals in the eye, and “no one seemed to mind” having their photographs taken.

Davey Winter’s paintings and collages are definitely influenced by Cuba but there is a certain ambiguity in that it is not a specific place; more an amalgam of different places and evocative of other hot, colourful places the viewer might have visited. The work seems very different to what I have seen before, which has often featured topography, mapping. This is more head-on, imaginative in a different way, an almost archaeological approach, feeling into the underlying spirit of the city.

Walking through Walls. © Jean Davey Winter

Walking through Walls © Jean Davey Winter

There are no people in Davey Winter’s pictures of Cuba. She has gone for the ‘colour’ of the country, some vibrant in a different way, avoiding the colourful cars, people, buildings, concentrating on the faded elegance, intrinsic colour, the hint of the country it once was; faded buildings, leaving musical impressions in the air  (just as you can almost hear the background jangle of music in Las Vegas.)

People feature only as ghostly presence behind window grills or empty spaces or shadowy imprints of people walking the Malecon, the Havana promenade.

Davey Winter has layered photographs together, altered colours, made scratches  in the paint. In this way she has brought a representation, abstraction and depth to her  images, at the same time allowing the viewer to make their own interpretations.

Both have evoked their own impressions and a spirit of Cuba and Las Vegas – those things that exist, and those that have gone before leaving indelible impressions of their pasts. Indulge yourself in a holiday and memories of those holidays gone before and visit Two Worlds at Hastings Arts Forum. 

Two Worlds is on at Hastings Arts Forum, 20 Marine Court, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN38 0DX until 4 October. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm.


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Posted 19:02 Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020 In: Visual Arts

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