Turner Contemporary – Margate

Tony Foster – City Connect’s art critic – visits the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate and reviews the gallery and it’s opening exhibition “Revealed” which brings together work by the visionary British painter JMW Turner and six contemporary artists. The exhibition runs from now until 4 September 2011.

The Lonely Planet Guide describes Margate as a town still striving to recapture its Victorian heyday of candy-striped beach huts, donkey rides and Punch & Judy puppet shows. But these days it’s more about amusements and chippies, and outside summer has the melancholy air of a town past its prime. That would just about sum it up except perhaps for the new arts influx.

Driving into Margate you can’t miss the collection of white angular boxes at the end of the harbour. Standing in stark contrast to the Victorian brick and Perspex, the Turner Contemporary (designed by David Chipperfield) appears clean and functional if a little clinical. Walking back from parking off the high road (the gallery car park is big but short on spaces) I was struck by the smaller detailing as I crunched across a path of white cockleshells and then the rubber entrance matting, spongy as a damp beach underfoot.

Apart from the far too small staircase to the main galleries the interior is well laid out. Inviting lots of natural light and sea views, the main entrance hall window sports an impressive yellow striped installation flanked by mirrors, Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape by Daniel Buren.

There are to be no permanent exhibits at the Turner but regular shows throughout the year, a wise choice for its limited size. The opening show Revealed, is intended to link closely to the location and to Turner himself. Teresita Fernández’s work Sfumato, a glass bead pool and Eruption, wall mounted graphite fragments are both inspired by volcanic eruptions. Lava flows and reining ash clouds which in turn link to Turners own work close by, The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains, in the Island of St Vincent. Both apparently refer to the explosive announcement of the new galleries opening onto the Kent art scene.

I was hard pressed to see any links to the Conrad Shawcross work, who’s impressive mechanical windmill with converging lights and spiral sketches all seem to follow their own rhythmical patterns. Although it was said Turner showed a great interested in mathematics, science and philosophy.

Next door, there could be no mistaking the direct references made by the artist Ellen Harvey. Propped up against a wall and in giant carnival letters the title of the piece Arcadia, stands outside a scaled down version of Turner’s own private gallery. Now turned into it’s own amusement arcade hang glass, etched and back lit views of today’s harbour, including empty arcades, chippies and tower blocks all glowing in the darkened space.

The final room is devoted to the work of Russell Crotty, surfer, amateur astronomer and artist. Three large painted orbs and giant sketchbook show ‘nice’ views of the local shorelines and incorporate his own thoughts as written responses to the landscape. The work seems lightweight but there is a clean simplicity, which is perhaps right for this show.

The new gallery is well worth a view if you’re local, but you’d have to be a keen art enthusiast to warrant the 90-minute train journey down from London.

City Connect Suggests

Situated on the North Kent coast, Margate is only a 90 minute drive or train journey from central London. The Turner Contemporary landmark gallery is just over half a mile along the seafront from Margate train station and close to all main bus routes in the town. The gallery is just a short walk from Margate town centre and the Old Town, where there are a number of artists’ studios, galleries and lively cafés and restaurants.

High speed trains from London St Pancras and Stratford International run every hour and take just 90 minutes. If travelling by car, there is plenty of on-street parking near the gallery on the Harbour Arm, as well as pay and display car parks close by at Trinity Square CT9 1HR and College Square (Morrison’s multi storey) CT9 1QA.

Admission is free and the gallery is open from 10am to 7pm every day except Mondays. However it is open on Bank Holiday Mondays.

Turner Contemporary
Kent CT9 1HG
Tel: 01843 233 000

Image courtesy of Tony Foster