Glass discovers the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate

SET on the beautiful Margate coastline, Turner Contemporary has been bringing cutting-edge art to the communities of Kent and beyond since opening in 2011. The institution’s name commemorates the association of the town with landscape painter J. M. W. Turner, who went to school there, and visited throughout his life. The other most famous person to have come from Margate is Tracey Emin, who has collaborated with the gallery over the years.

The institution’s 2021 programme continues to emphasise internationally renowned artists, alongside local talent working within the Margate and Kent communities. A current highlight is the work of British, Birmingham-based artist Barbara Walker who is known for her striking, black and white figure drawings.

Walker’s project at Turner Contemporary, titled Place, Space and Who, was created over a four-month residency at the gallery, and features portraits of five women and girls from the African Diaspora living in Margate and Kent.

Place, Space and Who by Barbara Walker, installation view at Turner Contemporary. Photograph: Stephen White

Exploring notions of identity and belonging, these intricate and beautiful depictions were drawn directly onto the walls of the gallery, underlining Walker’s ongoing intentions to challenge the absence and misrepresentation of marginalised and overlooked subjects.

The Tourists by Ellen Harvey at Turner Contemporary. Photograph: Thierry Bal

Another must-see exhibition is The Tourists: Ellen Harvey & JMW Turner. This is American artist Ellen Harvey’s first UK solo show and explores themes of tourism and ecology, particularly thinking about our relationship to architectural sites that have been destroyed or lost.

The centre-piece of the show is a new work called The Disappointed Tourist, which consists of over 200 paintings of places that have disappeared, ranging from the Temple of Bel in Syria to Brandy Bucks restaurant in Margate. It’s a stunning initiative and offers a timely reminder of environmental issues, as well as the role played by nostalgia.

The Margate Hippodrome, Ellen Harvey, 2020. Photograph credit: Etienne Frossard

As well as this, Harvey has selected two groups of works by Turner, which resonate with her own explorations into making art that centres on our experiences of places. Turner’s paintings focus on two very different tourist destinations: the ancient ruins of Italy, which Turner longed to visit from a young age, and Margate, which interested him towards the end of his life. Harvey has been interested by Turner’s work, as well as Margate, for some time now, so the opportunity to think about these two subjects side by side makes for an interesting comparison.

Only a short train ride away from London, a trip to Turner Contemporary this summer should most definitely be on your list of things to do. And, happy anniversary to the gallery – here’s to another decade.

by Derby Jones

For more information, visit Turner Contemporary