I spent last night in the Temple area of Central London. This part of the city holds a special place in my heart, I feel like I know it. I did my masters at one of the universities in the area and so spent a lot of my time around Holborn and Temple. I would often wander around, taking in the architecture and looking into the beautiful antique jewellery shops; often thinking how I’d love some of the pieces displayed in the shop windows and knowing that I’d never be able to afford them – not in my wildest dreams.
I was at II Temple Place, an impressive three-storey, Grade 2 Listed building built in 1895 by John Loughborough Pearson, a Gothic Revivalist architect. Walking up to the large building it looked closed. The only point of interest was a small sign with the exhibition’s advert displayed – I thought perhaps the building was shut but the website said that there are extended opening times on Wednesdays (closing at nine p.m.) – so I walked up the pathway and pushed the massive door open. I was greeted by a friendly woman who handed me an exhibition programme and directed me where to go.
Initially I was struck by the sheer magnitude of the room I was standing in, with its exquisite oak panelling and high ceilings. Admittedly, I think that I was much more impressed and inspired by the building I was in, rather than the art that I had travelled to see.
I started reading about two sculptures, one of which dominated the first half of the room, and was greeted by an exhibition assistant that informed me which sculptures the information was referring to. I wandered around a little bit more, quietly impressed at how many people there were visiting. There was so much to see and absorb, I took out my phone from my bag to start taking notes (as I like to do when I’m planning to write a blog post) and before I had even zipped up my bag the same assistant came up to me and stated clearly that there was no photography allowed. This annoyed me quite honestly. If I’d been ready and poised to take a picture, then sure, please approach me and tell me that I’m not supposed to but all I did was take my phone out of my bag. Overzealous, that’s how I described him later on. I respect his passion and commitment, but unintentionally I was made to feel uncomfortable, and I spent the rest of my time feeling as if I was being watched because I had my phone in my hand. I’ve learnt my lesson though, next time I will be taking a notepad and pencil to scribble on.
I was put off a little for the rest of the time. There were two distinct objects that I really loved, excluding the perfect clock engraved above the mantelpiece of one of the fireplaces; one was the design of a safe door, with a goat painted onto it, the second was a small sculpture of a cat that appeared squashed with blue markings. He was quite cute. I didn’t get the names of either of the artists of these pieces and regret not doing so*.
The programme describes the exhibition as ‘a visual cacophony of styles and media’. It is true, in contrast to the gothic rooms there are erotic religious sculptures and cool, clean and sharp paintings by artists of the time. There is a great focus on Virgina Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group – which seemed to inject colour and modernism into the traditionally rural Sussex landscape.
In regards to the main exhibition there were many artworks that I loved, and others that I just didn’t. The timespan ranged from the 1920s, and appeared to end in the 1960s, although I can’t be for certain. I especially appreciated Edward Wadsworth, who uncommonly used tempera in his paintings, I liked the depiction of machinery and the way in which he created movement in the pictures.
After the exhibition I had a quick look in the little shop. It was full of handcrafted bits, like mugs and magnets, with simple designs on them. There were soaps, marmalades and chocolates, as well as a good selection of books (both fiction and non-fiction). I picked up a few things for Mother’s Day – which is the end of March in the UK – and the exhibition’s programme. There was so much to see, and so many people, that I wanted to take it in a bit more after I’d left. It was inexpensive, £7.50 I think, which is quite cheap for a programme. I’ve just finished it, and I’m sure I’ll be reading it again.
After the exhibition I ate at Thai Square – Wig & Pen which was really enjoyable and they do a good ‘early bird’ deal. The building is said to be the only one to have survived the Great Fire of London in 1666!
All in all, I had a good night. The exhibition was full of some really interesting pieces and the venue itself was breathtaking. I’m looking forward to seeing what other exhibitions will be held at II Temple Place.
The exhibition itself was free, and you can find more information here.
If you’ve been to the exhibition yourself, or can think of any other exhibitions that are going on, let me know in the comments section below!
On a side note, I’m hoping to have my review of Women in Love up by the end of the week.
*Nathaniel Hepburn, the Director/CEO of the Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft, kindly informed me that the safe door is by David Jones and the cat is by Peggy Angus.