The best art exhibitions to see in South East galleries in 2014

By Richard Moss | 20 December 2013

There's a feast of art awaiting gallery goers in the South East during 2014 - check out some of the best in this guide to art exhibitions during the coming year

a painting of a reclining woman in a bathing suit revealing one breast
Christopher Wood, The Bather (circa 1925-1926© The Jerwood Collection
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is lining up another impressive year with Cezanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection (March 13 – June 22), which boasts a matchless assortment of paintings and watercolours by Cezanne together with pieces by the likes of Picasso and Modigliani.

William Blake: Apprentice and Master (December 4 – March 2015) examines three major aspects of Blake's life and work - from his apprenticeship as an engraver and master artist-printmaker and his time as painter and poet to his relationship to the printmakers of the Renaissance and his influence on a younger generation of artists such as Samuel Palmer.

At Pallant House Gallery in Chichester visitors get the chance to see Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War (February 15 – June 15). The stunning paintings, which reflect Spencer’s own experiences of the First World War, have been on a tour while their home (the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire) is refurbished.

Artists’ Studies: From Pencil to Paint (February 15 – June 22) examines the role of drawing and studies in the working methods of artists and includes an examination of the creative process of paper to canvass via the work of Sickert, Bomberg, Caulfield, Hillier, Minton, Coldstream, and Sutherland.

Summer brings with it a great painting and sculpture show in Pallant's main galleries in the shape of JD Fergusson: Scottish Colourist (July 5 – October 19), which is followed by British Artists and the Spanish Civil War (November 8 – February 2015), focusing on the responses of figures such as Edward Burra, Wyndham Lewis, Henry Moore and John Armstrong - alongside Picasso and Miro.

In Margate, Turner Contemporary has another coup with Mondrian and Colour (May 24 – September 2014) – part of a brace of UK shows (see Tate Liverpool for the other) celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Dutch painter’s death. The Margate gallery will be exploring the early period of the artist’s career between 1885 and 1933, tracing his use of colour from figuration to early abstraction.

Before then there's a new commission from Edmund De Waal (March 1 2014 – February 28 2015); a duo show pairing “two fellow travellers in landscape” with Paintings by JMW Turner and Helen Frankenthaler (January 25 – May 11) and a summer exhibition - sitting alongside the Mondrian - showcasing the work of American installation artist Spencer Finch (May 25 – September 21).

A busy year comes to a close with Jeremy Deller's English Magic (October 11 2014 - January 11 2015) which ends its UK tour at the gallery after its Venice Bienale triumph.

The Jerwood Gallery in Hastings has The Jerwood Collection: Revealed  (February 1 – April 23) - a welcome first chance to see the Jerwood Collection in depth since the gallery opened two years ago. A panorama of British painting, drawing and printing between the First World War and the 1960s, it's a show that could be one of the best paintings shows of the spring.

They follow this up with the subversive and improbable paintings of Ansel Krut (May 3 – July 9) before summer brings the Jerwood Drawing Festival (July 19 – October 15) - the 20th anniversary year of the largest and longest running annual open exhibition for drawing in the UK.

Along the coast, the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill celebrates contemporary painting with the dolefully titled I Cheer a Dead Man's Sweetheart: 21 painters in Britain (March 15 – June 29), looking at living painters ranging from Leon Kossof and Frank Auerbach to Garry Wragg and Phoebe Unwin. There’s also the chance to catch the powerful prints of Otto Dix (May 17 – July 13) as part of the centenary of the First World War.

Staying in Sussex, Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery starts the year by bringing the eerie stillness of Scandinavian film-making to Eastbourne with John Skoog: Redoubt (January 25 – April 6), a new film set in the flat farmlands of the southern provinces of Sweden. Skoog also curates the customary re-display of the wonderful Towner Collection with Near Dark (February 8 – May 4), which promises to “explore the space between night and day, between the dog and the wolf.”

Summer introduces a light installation courtesy of the architecturally-inclined studio United Visual Artists (April 18 – June 22) and the East Sussex Open (July 4 – September 14) before the gallery throws some welcome light on the legendary figure of Peggy Angus (dates tbc).

An artist, designer and something of a local legend, Angus is today best remembered for her artist’s cottage at nearby Furlongs on the South Downs - and her associations there with Eric Ravilious, John Piper, Edward Bawden et al. This is perfect Towner territory. 

The Lightbox in Woking explores the British penchant for a certain French Impressionist in Renoir in Britain (February 8 – April 20), which evaluates how some of Renoir’s finest works of art landed on British shores. Expect a highly impressive gathering of paintings, watercolours, drawings, sculptures and prints borrowed from British collections.

Guildford's wonderful Victorian time capsule, The Watts Gallery, features another aspect of the talents of Victorian sage John Ruskin in their John Ruskin - Photographer and Draughtsman (February 4 – May 11) which mines the Ruskin Library collection at Lancaster University.

In Hampshire, Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery opens Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea (February 8 – May 4), promising an intriguing visual feast of paintings, films, photography and prints alongside archival objects “evoking the disorientating vastness of oceans, unusual images of lighthouses, the romance of sea travel and ship-to-shore communications”.

The Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green in Hertfordshire is promising to shake things up a little with their most diverse exhibition to date. Body & Void: Echoes of Moore in Contemporary Art (opening May 21) will “offer an alternative trajectory for contemporary art contrasting with the historically accepted view of post-war Avant Garde”.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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