Caroline Lucas is a busy woman. Between the frenetic goings-on in parliament in recent months and preparing to defend her Brighton Pavilion seat in this month’s snap general election, she has found the time to curate an exhibition at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery. Unsurprisingly, the resulting show is both a celebration of the local landscape and a campaigning platform, highlighting Caroline’s concerns for the environment and climate change. It runs alongside the retrospective of David Nash, the prominent British sculptor who works with wood, trees and landscape, and whose exhibition title inspired Caroline’s curatorial direction.
“It’s interesting that David’s exhibition is called 200 Seasons – it’s a retrospective of 50 years of his work – and that got me thinking about time,” explains Caroline. “200 seasons sounds like an innocent enough title but – when you project forward 200 seasons, instead of looking back – what is our world going to look like? Do we even know that we have 200 seasons in which it will be possible to live safely on our planet? Projecting 50 years forward is quite scary in some ways.” Hence, the title of her exhibition: Brink.
While selecting from the 5000 works in Towner’s collection, Caroline was struck by how many of them depicted landscapes, seascapes and the cliffs of the Sussex coastline. “You really got the sense of edges… That grew into this sense of being on the brink, on the edge of something new, politically, in the broadest sense. Whether or not we rise to the climate challenge, whether or not Brexit gets resolved, whether or not we have a kinder more compassionate politics going forward. It feels like we are metaphorically on the edge, just as so many of the artworks I was looking at played with the idea of different planes, different edges.”
She has clearly relished the role of guest curator – an opportunity that she describes as a real privilege and having almost endless possibilities for interpretation. “You see each artwork differently once it’s placed next to another. The context in which you view it, I think, changes the meaning you pull from it.”
Many of her chosen pieces feature trees and wilderness that speak to the Nash exhibition next door, and visitors can expect to see “old favourites” by Eric Ravilious, as well as lesser-known works by Tirzah Garwood, Robert Morris and Kier Smith. Imagery from local environmental campaigning groups will also feature. Placards made for an Eastbourne youth march for climate action will hang alongside pieces from the Towner Collection, as will a sobering poster that projects what the town might look like under different scenarios of sea-level rise. “It really does bring home to people that climate change isn’t some distant threat that happens to people many miles away,” concludes Caroline. “It’s something that could be very real to us as well.” Brink promises to be a thought-provoking exploration of a landscape on the edge.
Image: William Nicholson, Judd’s Farm, 1912
14th December–20th May 2020, townereastbourne.org.uk