Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sussex Modernism

There's a wonderful little exhibition on now at a venue I'd never visited before and didn't even know existed - Two Temple Place in London.

The show is called 'Sussex Modernism, Retreat and Rebellion', and is about the breadth and diversity of artists who lived in the south of England in the first half of last century.  

This of course includes the Bloomsbury group of Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and their bohemian friends and family, who were based at Cahrleston Farmhouse, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose at Farley Farmhouse, Eric Gill at Ditchling, and a whole host of other names who seemingly met and worked with everyone else - Henry Moore, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Eric Ravilious - the list just goes one.  The quiet seaside towns, gently rolling sheep-covered downs, and sleepy country lanes of comatose Sussex turn out to have been heaving with radical poets, artists, sculptors, composers and (oh yes) economists, in a writhing mass of political, creative and sexual activity, with Cezannes falling out of the hedges.  Who knew?

As well as stunning pieces of work from all of these artists and sculptors, there are sketches by Duncan Grant for Berwick Church - another real favourite of mine - and even Salvador Dali's Mae West Lips Sofa.

This is a thoughtful and expansive exhibition, set in the most jaw-dropping surroundings of Two Temple Place, a cathedral of oppulent oak carvings and stained glass.  In the stairwell between exhibition rooms, there is a wonderfully clever series of pertinent pieces of music and poetry playing, such as Debussy's La Mer which as everyone familiar with Eastbourne will know, was written in Room 200 at the Grand Hotel in 1905. 

(All I can say is, having been to the room, he must have had pretty good eyesight to see the sea from there, but maybe he brought his own binoculars...) 

Please do go along and see the show.  Read more details here.  It's free, and it's on until 23rd April.

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