By Violet India Chaudoir
As the Romantics were keen to display, the exploration of the unknown is an element not to be feared but relished. Living in the Bubble I fear our St Andrews seclusion is getting the better of us. With the Scottish countryside at our laps and London (albeit expensively) 6 hours away, locating gems of artistry in the British Isles should become a solace in the free summer and winter months we have. Before the burdens of post-university, adult responsibilities clasp at our freedom, the 36 days of our winter break and the 100 days of our summer holiday is ours to own - especially for international students. Europe is your playground. Having been visited by The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who, I believe the town of Margate is a hidden gem in the British Isle to which budding artists of St Andrews should flock.
Being a town which held one of Britain’s first pleasure parks, as titled Dreamland, Margate echoes of 1950s memories of childhood rides, exhilaration and bands serenading the beach. This laughter lives on today as the park has very recently been reopened. The quirkiness of the town’s pleasure setting vibrates across its winding streets, its independent bookshops, vintage shops, microbreweries and the town’s hidden graffiti. Understandably, this history and vibe has caused Margate to become an epicentre for artists, with the town featuring in both Charles Dickens and Tracey Emin’s childhood. The towns, hilariously, had a rather scathing guest, T.S.Eliot, who visited after suffering a mental breakdown afterwards stated in The Wasteland “On Margate sands. I can connect/Nothing with nothing”. The impact of such greats undoubtedly flickers across the town to this day.
On a more tangible note, in 2011 Margate, in a similar manner to St Ives and Dundee (the V&A is due to be completed by 2017), was blessed with the presence of a new gallery. Since the Turner Contemporary’s opening the artists which have gathered to exhibit have steadily increased in prestige, with Grayson Perry gracing Margate this summer with his tantalising exhibition ‘Provincial Punk’. This oxymoronically titled exhibit according to Perry addressed his 1990’s upbringing and his coming to terms which his ‘second class’ and untraditional self. Even more enticing is Perry’s description of the event as he states ‘Provincial Punk’ as “a willingness to turn things over, to not accept the fashion and to have a bit of fun. It is a kind of teasing rebellion; it is not a violent revolution”.
If persuasion is further needed, I can reassure of the Turner Contemporary’s excellence. The gallery itself is a bright, open space designed by the progressive David Chipperfield and heralded by the art critic Waldermar Januszczak as “the most elegant gallery interior in Britain right now”. Aside from aesthetic pleasure, the gallery rightfully prides itself in ensuring that every exhibit is free (students unite!). This Christmas the gallery displayed ‘English Magic’ by the conceptual artist Jeremy Deller (winner of the 2004 Turner award). Inarguably the most unsettling and silencing work was the art produced when Deller workshopped with jailed ex-Iraqi soldier’s. These unguided illustrations hauntingly depict subjects such as PTSD, John Scarlett (former head of MI6) in handiwork which ranged from endearing, unpracticed illustration to psychological surrealism. Already Turner Contemporary expertly has been able to depict and make an impact.
Hopefully Margate and its multitude of persuasions speak for itself and are able to seduce a few St Andreans to indulge this winter in skies Turner complimented as the “loveliest in all Europe”.