Artist claims Portsmouth's artistic community is hindered by lack of major gallery

AN ARTIST has criticised the lack of a '˜major art gallery' in Portsmouth.

Colin Merrin, a member of the Royal Watercolour Society, said the lack of such a gallery leaves Portsmouth’s ‘vibrant artistic community’ struggling to find opportunities to showcase their work.

Mr Merrin, of Southsea, also wants the University of Portsmouth to reverse its decision to axe undergraduate and masters degree courses in fine art as of this academic year.

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He said: ‘Unlike our neighbours in Chichester and Southampton, we don’t have a major art gallery and this really impoverishes the city.

‘Despite this, Portsmouth has an amazing, vibrant artistic community, which includes musicians, poets and writers as well as many superb visual artists who need more opportunities to showcase their work.

Mr Merrin is part of Creative Coverage, which represents selected professional artists and craftspeople.

But he said the group has been unable to find any exhibition space so far as the Hot Walls arches have restrictive terms and conditions.

He said: ‘It is a step in the right direction.

‘However, the terms and conditions are a bit inhibiting.

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Artists are not allowed to put anything on the walls themselves because of their historic value.

‘Portsmouth has the potential to be as vibrant as Brighton and London. It has a strong sense of itself historically and culturally, it’s got an amazing community of artists; a hive of real talent.’

Mr Merrin is due to open Studio No 1 at the Hot Walls in July.

The university’s press and PR manager Anne Stanford said: the decision to close the courses was made several years ago.

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But she added: ‘Portsmouth has a vibrant and thriving arts offering, with a number of galleries around the city.

‘The university itself has a fantastic arts space, Eldon Building, for use by both students and the wider community, in which £14m was invested.’

She said the a new space for Media and Performing Arts students had been set up in a collaboration with The New Theatre Royal.

Former fine art student Freddie Lewis, 62, of Gosport, graduated in 2013.

Of the closing courses, he said: ‘It’s a tremendous loss – it’s a tragedy, a real shame.’