Last Thursday (1st October), the first ‘gallery conversation’ took place within the #Shorelines exhibition. 16 people took part in the session which focused on key pieces chosen for the theme of our conversation, ‘Beside the Sea’
The paintings we focused on (in order of delivery) included Percival Wise’s ‘Punch and Judy on Swanage Beach’, 1962, Paul Nash’s ‘Kimmeridge Folly’, 1937 and John Tunnard’s ‘Holiday’, 1947.
These pieces were chosen for the theme ‘Besides the Sea’ as they each speak of our relationship with the coast as a leisure destination. In ‘Punch and Judy on Swanage Beach’ we have a sun soaked scene with children immersed in the antics of Punch whilst holiday makers lounge under umbrellas and paddle in the sea. In contrast, Nash’s ‘Kimmeridge Folly’ imposes on the viewer a conflict between the artists desire to express the mysterious spirit of the place, which for the viewer, as highlighted by participants in the first gallery conversation, achieves a sense of unsettling isolation and portrays a bleak, unwelcoming seascape, with the purpose of selling Shell fuel.
It was clear that the group were surprised and challenged by the final piece , Tunnard’s ‘Holiday’. However, although abstract surrealist and clearly not everyone’s preferred image, most people in the group recognised the subject and mood of this picture was closer to the figurative ‘Punch and Judy on Swange Beach’ and in contrast to Nash’s ‘Kimmeridge Folly’.
With its bold, vibrant colours and energetic ‘figures’, ‘Holiday’ encapsulates the sense of escape and pleasure which we desire from vacations. In contrast, rather than celebrating the joyfulness of the seaside as a place of entertainment, Nash excludes people from his coastal environment. Instead human presence is found in the marks they have left behind; the sea wall, enclosure and folly, and brings to the forefront the uniqueness and solitude of the seascape as the celebratory factor, rather than its purpose as a destination for holiday makers and their playfully folly.
Over the following weeks we will continue to document and record responses from participants taking part in our gallery conversations. Our aim is to share the responses by people with early to mid stage dementia and memory loss, and their companions, to highlight the capabilities people with dementia maintain in terms of talking critically about a piece of art and the positive impact the art looking and art engagement process has on developing critical thinking skills and understanding.
At the time of writing, there are still places available on up coming ‘gallery conversations’ if you know anyone who would like to take part.