Community galleries and art centers tend to be vanity projects, in my experience. The showcase the base of local amateur talent, often funded by large donations to named galleries from the families of aspiring talents. Somewhat like community theater, the quality of work is uneven and derivative, although the artists sometimes have cunning insight into local settings and people.
The Lighthouse, Poole’s Community Centre for the Arts, is featuring the works of Dorset’s Jason Miller, an abstract painter exploring seaside light. I decided to treat myself after completing a long rewrite of follow-on opportunities today. The staff had some initial confusion in finding the gallery in their building, but I was finally shown to a light, airy room of colorful works behind the cafe.
Miller works around three themes, and these are intermingled around the galley. They all simulating varieties of light, and supposed to stimulate contemplative reflection. One set tended towards loose washes simulating light at different times of the day, intended for viewers to experience and interpret. The acrylic Marine Light was the best of the group: I liked the texturing and shading, reminiscent of the early mornings before the sun yellows the horizon.
The second group was the Horizon series, gouache paintings that were intended for formal meditation on sea, sky, and horizon. New Day was typical of the group, sand sharply separated from sky, deepening towards horizon and zenith. Though less interesting, they are more accessible: I didn’t lose myself as easily in them, though.
The last set was sculptures based on discarded materials found locally. He says that they are intended to convey thoughts of openness and vulnerability through colour, angles, and soft materials. I kind of get it, but they felt simple and cheap, more suggestive of school projects than mature compositions.
The display takes a half hour to traverse, contemplatively. I like the work, would hang them on my wall, but they don’t dispel my impression of community art galleries: not much beyond the works in any seaside village gallery.
And it leaves me looking forward to taking on more challenging fare: the Marlene Dumas at the Tate within the next few weeks.