Both artists live and work in Margate. The town, its energy and people, its vast seascapes and light, its social reality, culture and legends have fed into Sirens, which will evolve and change throughout the exhibition.
Sophie von Hellermann’s fluid and dreamlike paintings often draw on history, mythology and fable. She works rapidly using pure pigment and washes of colour, allowing the fleeting images in her mind to materialise on the canvas. For Sirens von Hellermann will draw from the Margate coastline, reflecting the Sunley Gallery’s expansive sea view in her paintings. Swirling waters and events at sea, figures of peril and vigilance, jest and folly will appear across a changing series of large-scale canvases, which the artist will paint in the gallery.
Anne Ryan creates constructed and painted ‘cutouts’, which are intensely coloured, densely layered and full of movement. Figures appear and disappear in the positive and negative shapes of the interlocking surfaces: swimmers diving, raucous pub crowds and Mods and Rockers on the beach. For Sirens, Ryan has created works in high-density board and aluminium, drawing on a wide range of references and daily observations of the coastal environment, its light and weather, as well as Margate’s history of leisure and working-class culture. In tandem with von Hellermann, works will be removed, added and reconfigured throughout the exhibition.
Sirens has evolved as a loose dialogue between von Hellermann and Ryan and this conversation will continue as the commission evolves throughout the duration of the exhibition.