"Barrage Balloons" by Eric Ravilious – copyright Towner gallery
By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
Claude Debussy probably didn’t have the English Channel in mind when he wrote La Mer. He did, however, complete the piece while staying in Eastbourne’s Grand Hotel in the summer of 1905. The Grand still stands elegantly on the seafront. A few minutes’ walk away from the seafront is the Towner gallery, a modern space (all concrete and glass) dedicated to contemporary art. The Towner, together with the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings and the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, forms a fine trio of galleries all within 25 miles of each other on the South coast. Brighton, further west up the coast and home to two universities and several art colleges, has nothing to match them.
Recording Britain, an attractive small exhibition at the Towner (until May 2, admission free), draws on work from the V&A’s collections. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Kenneth Civilisation Clark “commissioned artists to paint ‘places and buildings of characteristic national interest’, documenting rural and urban environments and precious buildings under threat, not only from bombs but from the effects of ‘progress’ and development”. The project resulted in 1,500 watercolours, which went on show around the country in order to, in Clark’s words, “inspire the war effort and boost public morale”. Forty-nine of these works are on display in Eastbourne.