Fancy a trip out of Brighton? How does a museum date sound? 

Just a picturesque 30-minute train ride from Falmer station, and a 10 minute walk along “the sunshine coast,” is the Towner Eastbourne Gallery. The big bright rainbow building is nestled amongst the quaint and cosy looking homes.

The inside of the gallery is as colourful as the outside, with a myriad of different displays and activities for everyone, from public art and curator talks, to a balcony café, and even a cinema! All you need to do is take your pick.

Image: Abigail Keyla Ryanto

Currently, the main attraction of the gallery is the Turner Prize 2023 exhibition, dubbed the “world’s leading prize in contemporary art”, which is awarded to one British visual artist each year. You will be able to find the work of all four shortlisted contestants for the 2023 Prize on show throughout the gallery until 14 April, including artwork by this year’s winner, Jesse Darling. Plus, admission is free!

As someone who is not well-versed in the arts, I didn’t really know what to expect when I first visited. But speaking from experience, even if you are not a big fan of contemporary art, you’ll be sure to find something that catches your eye. 

You’ll be sure to find something that catches your eye.

When people think of art, traditionally paintings or statues might come to mind. But with contemporary art, the artists stretch, play with, and expand the very definition of what ‘art’ is. For the four contestants of the Turner Prize 2023, this ranges from household items and toys, to documentary films, construction materials, and wall murals! They may seem strange at first, but it is fascinating to try and put yourself in the artist’s mind. What are they trying to convey? And what deep messages lie behind them?

If we’re picking favourites, mine would have to be Barbara Walker’s exhibit titled “The Burden of Proof”. Here, she explores the 2018 Windrush Scandal and how the government not properly documenting the Windrush Generation has affected their settlement rights, and livelihoods. She does this through portraits of the Windrush Generation superimposed over documents that evidence their right to remain in the UK. A massive charcoal mural is on the back wall of the exhibit, with the faces of five of the individuals. In a symbolic move, the mural will be washed away once the exhibit has ended to signify the Windrush Generation’s erasure by the UK government. I thought that it was sad that this beautiful artwork was not meant to last, but that it is a powerful statement on the struggles for legitimacy as a diaspora.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with this trip. Eastbourne felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the hustle and bustle of the city, and the contemporary art exhibits in the Towner Gallery are like nothing I have ever seen before. So if you have a day to spare, why not come and see for yourself? 

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