Bon Hiver: A Journey Through a Winter Landscape at the Towner in Eastbourne

By Ben Miller | 30 November 2012
A photo of an enormous blue Arctic mountain top with words from a journey over it
Joachim Koester, Nordenskiöld and The Ice Cap (detail) (1999-2000)© Joachim Koester, courtesy Galleri Nicolai Wallner

Exhibition Preview: Bon hiver: A Journey Through a Winter Landscape, Towner, Eastbourne, December 1 2012 – March 3 2013

Matthew Rowe, the Artistic Director who has overseen record visitor numbers and an Art Fund Prize nomination during more than a decade at the Towner in Eastbourne, is off to become top dog at Colchester’s new Firstsite space after this exhibition opens.

But before he leaves, a work he helped the space buy in 2003 – The Forked Forest Path, an installation by Olafur Eliasson, bought with the Contemporary Art Society before the artist went on to fill the Tate Turbine Hall – will form an eye-catching centrepiece for a show with a distinctly chilly theme.

A photo of a beautiful forest of tall thin trees installed in the centre of an art gallery
Olafur Eliasson, The Forked Forest Path (1998)© Olafur Eliasson
“I initiated negotiations in 2002,” recalls Rowe.

“It was the first installation work by this leading international artist ever to enter a public collection in the UK.

“The acquisition of this work is one of the highlights of my career at Towner and, in light of my imminent departure to take up the post in Colchester, it is fitting that this should be the final work displayed under my directorship.”

Forests and ice caps colonise the clean gallery floors. Eliasson’s is a work of woven branches leading to a forked path at which gallery goers must make a decision, following a line of indigenous sweet chestnut trees.

Elsewhere, in an eclectic line-up which Rowe says evokes “the beauty and stillness” of glacial landscapes, there are slide projections taken in Greenland by Joachim Koester, watercolours by Eric Ravilious – Towner’s gathering of more than 600 of his works represents the largest group in any public institution – and abstract paintings by William Gear, who was curator of the gallery for six years during the 1950s and 60s.

And Kelly Richardson, whose stunning, large-scale hyper-real landscape installations will take over Towner at the start of next year, has contributed an early film work and photos based on horror movie landscapes, demonstrating the parallels between her ideas and the resident collection.

Duncan Grant and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska are two of the other names we could mention. It’s a fitting send-off for Rowe and a fantastical, transportive way to end the year in exhibitions in this corner of Sussex.

  • Open 10am-5pm (closed Monday except Bank Holiday, December 24-26). Follow the gallery on Twitter @townergallery.

More pictures:

A photo of an oil painting of rolling green pastoral hill under a white sky
Eric Ravilious, Downs in Winter (1934)© Eric Ravilious
A photo of a painting of a black horse on white snow under a blue hill and white sky
Tom Hammick, Horse in Snow (2002)© Tom Hammick
A photo of an oil painting of various figures walking through a snowy urban landscape
Christopher Wood, Paris Under Snow (undated)
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