The idea of giving Ruth Cutler free rein to do anything is always a damned good idea given how she's one of the brightest artists the Island has. She's yet to disappoint and has been consistantly thrilling since the days when the only arts regeneration around was the wacky idea of saving the Castle Hotel in Ramsgate by turning it into an arts trust way back in the eighties. Predictably it became another dull conversion into flats.
To have Cutler curate a show in association with The Thanet Coast Project based around art influenced by the sea is automatically a damned good idea but also an experience which is warm, evocative and damply nostalgic. The warmth comes from the paintings ability to put the viewer right there on the beach with the sun beating down, it's evocative for both artist and viewer in how keenly a few dabs can convey this bay or that beach beyond any doubt. The damp nostalgia derives from how well we who live on the coast actually know it, nearly every viewpoint is recognisable and we could give directions on how to get there while recalling the taste of sea spray the time we were there last along with the occassional tale of tide, swell or the time Dave lost his left shoe.
Luckily for us Cutler has managed to assemble the great and the good to grace the walls with fine paintings. The catalogue reads like a Thanet edition of "Who's Talented"; Marriot, Smart, Rintoul, Buckey, Bushell, Powley-Kemp, Edwards, McTurk, Hughes, Samson, Day to name but half and of course the very special Ruth Cutler herself. There's some fresh talent as well, most notably Thelma Findlay whose five oils are spread over two places. Both spots come across as strong work from different artists, so how beautifly shocking to discover it's the same shiny soul.
Ruth Cutler's work continues to be exciting and fun, she's still concentrating on using a lot of found objects in her work and the result is a thrill touched by a hint of hoarding the old and the obsolete. There's a feel of archaeology to it but more modern, so old bakelite switches replace roman oil lamps, sea worn fragments of brick rather than mosiac tile and rusted metallic forms of forgotten function instead of bones. My meagre words can't get across how immediate and gripping her work is, so go and discover it for yourself.
The only negative to the whole show is how it only runs for a week, well eight days. That aside it's yet another "must-see"
at IOTA which has almost become a cliche given how everytime they have a show on it's a stunner. It's a most welcome cliche though, especially at a time when the majority of arts funding goes elsewhere for cold shows lacking both heart and humanity."SeaArt 2006" curated by Ruth Cytler runs until Sunday 13th August at Gallery IOTA. For more information, call the gallery on 01843 853117 or click on the IOTA link on the left hand side of this web page.