This year we have made a conscious decision to spend more time exploring England (as opposed to far-flung corners of the globe) and it’s amazing just how many places we’ve yet to discover. East Kent is one such region and with the opening of the Turner Contemporary earlier this year in Margate, a visit was long overdue.
The first thing we noticed about Margate was the spectacular light. It made the sea look like grey cellophane. As its name suggests, British landscape painter JMW Turner was the inspiration for the gallery and in particular, Turner’s love affair with Margate: he loved the sea, the skies and his landlady Mrs Booth.
The painter first came to the seaside town aged 11 to attend school and then returned regularly throughout his life as he was drawn by the unique quality of light. The gallery has been built on the exact spot where Mrs Booth’s seafront guesthouse, Cold Harbour at Rendezvous, once stood.
Designed by David Chipperfield Architects, this stunning space affords the same vistas Turner may have once enjoyed from his bedroom window.
The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains in the Island of St. Vincent is the only painting by Turner in the exhibition. His work is accompanied by six international contemporary artists. Ellen Harvey was the standout artist for us. Her installation ARCADIA, welcomes visitors into a room of mirrors that is also a three-quarter scale reproduction of the gallery Turner built in London to promote his work. Harvey has hand-engraved the Plexiglass mirrors to show panoramic views of contemporary Margate which also match the style of prints made after Turner’s paintings (produced to allow people who couldn’t see the real paintings, to learn about Turner’s work).
Although we fell in love with the space and light at Turner Contemporary, we have to admit a slight disappointment regarding the actual amount of work on show. Some of the rooms felt pretty bare and we left wanting more.
Having said that, a visit to the gallery was well worth the two-hour drive from London for the glorious building and setting alone. We’re just hoping for a little more generosity of content next time.
Turner Contemporary Opens runs until 4 September 2011.
Admission to the gallery is free.
For further information please visit: www.turnercontemporary.org
All images by CELLOPHANELAND*.