Tucked in next to The Richmond and Yacht Werks, A Sense of Place comfortably nestles into Richmond Place. With an open door policy, free admission to this event means that there’s no reason not to give this bright and welcoming space a visit. Head down to this exhibition before it closes this Saturday and take in the local art and the personal stories of the local artists that elucidate the close relationship between space, belonging and creativity.
After a successful launch on Thursday, Ty – Curator and Director of the local exhibition – spoke to me about how the event is going so far and what the future holds for his celebration of Brighton’s creative culture and history that directly supports both The Clock Tower Sanctuary and Refugee Action through the donation of all profits from sales made.
Through the display of local art and concurrent written testament from the artists themselves, the graphic art exhibition explores how places are created from spaces; how they become invested with meaning through the ways in which they come to be used over time.
“It reveals how places can develop strong identities and culture, which are felt deeply by local people and visitors alike. It is also a response to the current political climate, which has seen increasing attempts to close borders, restrict our freedom of movement and regulate our ‘sense of place’.
Sussex has a long rich history of attracting radical artists and writers. The lush countryside and pretty villages, colourful seaside resorts and striking coastline have long inspired creative minds. Designer Eric Gill created the famous Gill Sans font, and painters Duncan James and Vanessa Bell made their home in the now famous Charleston.
These artists not only worked here, they created experimental communities and ʻspacesʼ, challenging the political and social norms of the time. They left a powerful and disruptive artistic legacy that continues today. Sussex – and particularly Brighton & Hove – is now home to people from all over the world.
The city is a unique place where free thought and independence is welcomed. The many diverse communities that live here often come together to challenge the status quo – politically and artistically.”
With lots of political activity going on in Brighton over the weekend and through this week, I asked Ty if he thought this was a potential distraction for his audience who, spoiled for choice and rushed off their feet, may pass the exhibition by in favour of chasing the political fervour as it sweeps from pillar to post around the town like the stiff channel breeze that Brightonians will be accustomed to braving on the worse weather days that the city is home to.
Ty didn’t feel that the veritable treasure trove of activities on offer at the moment was a negative influence on his exhibition, and instead saw them as complimentary to this event, which seeks to bring in people of all orientations, locals and visitors, politicos and apatheticos.
He stressed that those new to Brighton could get a lot from the exhibition that tells a narrative of Brighton’s creative past, present and future, whilst those more acclimatised to the wind-swept streets could also find new perspectives in the place they call home. “It kind of all helps, it all sits alongside each other doesn’t it. There’s lots of bits here, there, and everywhere, not necessarily focussing on one thing. It’s good to have these little buckets of creativity going on.”
“I’d like to encourage everyone to come and have a look, we’re just trying to get it out there and get people to come see what we’re doing and have a look at the art. It’s quite good to see the work and see people’s stories. It’s not just an art exhibition, it’s a bit more than that. You know, I think there’s something in here for everyone.”
The exhibition is situated near the ongoing Circus Street Development and Ty spoke with me about the possible effects that this could have on the local art community. “It kind of needs to be cheap to kind of foster it [the creative scene], if its all at the going rate then you’re only going to get people who’ve got a bit of money to be able to use it. I think more affordable, cheaper spaces which are kind of rough feels better from a personal point of view”, allowing emerging artists to take that risk and get themselves noticed without taking on too much of a financial burden at the start of their careers.
“This exhibition talks about places and areas, and areas form for a certain reason. So in other cities you’ve kind of got areas where the creative community kind of develops because the rent is so cheap. So artists are able move in which creates this community that in 20 years down the line, the area is fashionable and then the rent goes up”
We spoke about the ever-changing creative culture in Brighton, and the resistance that artists are experiencing in the face of the rising costs of living, working and exhibiting as an artist in Brighton. “Places need to be cheap for artists to thrive. You can afford to take risks in an expensive market which can limit creativity […] there not that many spaces and they’re all quite expensive. I had to find a space that was suitable for this exhibition and what I wanted to do. The costs of doing that are quite prohibitive, so yeah there definitely needs to be a bit more accessible spaces that artists can use.”
The strong concept behind the exhibition has got some of the artists thinking about what brought them here and about how the sense of place they get from Brighton influences and inspires their work:
“I feel very fortunate to have lived in Brighton. I have vivid memories of visiting for the first time as a teenager and being so wowed by the graffiti all over the North Laine that I instantly decided that I wanted to move here to study art. Every day I continue to be influenced by all of the events, art, and design here. Brighton has a strong history of having a distinctive creative voice; I hope it never fades.” – Lucy Irving
“I’ve lived in Brighton for over 20 years and am so pleased to have seen an increase in street art over the last 7 years or so. My own response has been to partake in vinyl bombing – taking an image and creative a 2 colour vinyl version which I then stick on an empty shop window, mainly in the creative and individual heart of Brighton, the Laines. This is one such piece which I have turned in to a full colour version for this exhibition. It lasted a good few weeks in Sydney Street before being decommissioned but if you’re down that way a few newbies have sprung up to take its place.” – Mister Phil
“I’ve always had a strong connection with Brighton. I was born in Scotland, but my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were all born and raised here. I especially loved listening to Grandad Jack tell stories about the scrapes he got into as a young boy. My favourite was when he and his friends would go happy jacking – a slang name for begging, when children would dive to the sea bed and retrieve coins that were tossed down by tourists walking along the pier above. My artwork is inspired by Grandad Jack’s story, but don’t google happy jacking as it means something very different now…” – Stuart Tolley
“I’ve spent time living in both Hastings and Brighton and the thing that defines Sussex for me and makes it a special place is the sea. Quite simply the best!” – Andy Smith
Be sure to give this exhibition a visit before it closes it’s doors on Saturday before trying to find another space where it can continue to celebrate Brighton’s creative scene, and continue to explore the changing dynamics of Brighton and how the differing understandings of space and senses of place relate to they ways in which artists can live and work within the creative community. For interesting insights into Brighton’s creative scene, musings on what turns spaces into places, and how Brighton influences artists living and working in the City, visit this FREE exhibition that celebrates local art and tells a story about what the city means, and how it’s history reflexively informs it’s present.
The artworks on display in this exhibition are all for sale online, with all profits from the sale of the prints going to The Clocktower Sanctuary and Refugee Action, so if you see anything you don’t hesitate to snap it up, you’ll be celebrating local art and creative culture and also helping some very important and admirable charities in the mean time, helping many birds with one click.