Wednesday, 22 March 2017

'Sussex Modernism' at Two Temple Place

There's an interesting small exhibition on at the moment at Two Temple Place called 'Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion'. Two Temple Place is a Victorian mansion built by the Astor's and the inside is covered in carved wood decorations and some huge and detailed stained glass windows. It's a good place to host an exhibition like this, comparing the old and the new.

There's a wide range of artists in the show, many of whom I'd not heard of before, and a wide range of works - sculptures, paintings, sketches, furnishings, books and even two engraved garden rollers. It's split over two floors which helps with seeing the rest of the house. At one end of the large downstairs room is a 'Bloomsbury' section with paintings and furnishings from Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a gorgeous painting by Duncan Grant, 'Venus and Adonis'. We see a pink, voluptuous Venus lounging on her bed looking out the window at a smaller Adonis running in the distance. The colours are marvellous (much better in real life than this reproduction) and it simply glows with life. The curves, the swag of the curtain, the fluffy clouds and the pink on pink of Venus on her red/orange bed all pulls you into a comfortable world and then you wonder why Adonis is running?

Further on from this painting is the much larger 'Bathers by the Pond' by Duncan Grant using a very different colour palette. It's a series of young men lounging around on a warm, sunny afternoon, some naked and some in colourful trunks (I couldn't help but wonder where you could get bright orange trunks these days). It's a very different painting and not as lush as 'Venus' but is quite arresting with it's large bush dabs to give a texture to the surface of the painting.

Another delightful work by Duncan Grant is a wooden chest he painted at Charleston with all four sides painted and the inside of the lid painted with the tale of 'Leda and the Duck', changing the swan to a duck. The front of the chest is painted with a joyous image of naked swimmer, with other scenes on the other sides of the chest.

There are also works by Vanessa Bell including book covers and a lampshade, but the most surprising were in the upstairs room and were two large sketches for decorating Berwick Church of 'The Nativity' and 'The Annunciation'. I hadn't expected to see religious paintings but these were delightful and hung opposite each other in an airy, light alcove that made them seem even lighter and more delicate and very early Renaissance. The sketch for 'The Nativity' compared to the finished painting in the church (below) is quite noticeable, particularly with the shepherd on the left wearing a jacket - which he doesn't have in the sketch - over his red jumper.

There are lots of other artists and crafts people included in this exhibition, include Salvador Dali's 'Mae West Lips' sofa on loan from Brighton Museum, a Henry Moore sculpture and paintings by Wadsworth (a detail of one is used on the poster above).

There's also a rather lovely 'Madonna and Child in a Landscape' by David Jones, one of the many artists I haven't come across before. I liked the muted colours and I liked the Madonna kissing her child while holding him protectively. It's a relatively small painting and is one of the few images that you can buy as a postcard in the shop. I'd like to see more of his work.

Two Temple Place was a new space for me and it's only open when there's an exhibition on. It's free to enter and have a look around so if you're in the area (it's just along from Temple tube station) then it's definitely worth popping in.

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