Sussex Modernism

Sussex Modernism

Having been born in and recently moved back to the wonderful county of West Sussex, my attention was piqued when I stumbled across the news of a new exhibition opening it’s doors in London at the end of the month on said county.

As an avid enthusiast of the modernist movement, my initial reaction was one of curiosity, as it is not necessarily a county that you would associate with such a forward thinking movement. Quite humorously, to me at least, the exhibition sets out to examine why radical artists and writers were drawn to the rolling hills, seaside resorts and quaint villages of Sussex in the first half of the 20th century and how, in the communities they created, artistic innovation ran hand in-hand with political, sexual and domestic experimentation.

“Through over 120 works, the exhibition discovers intriguing connections between these enclaves of artists and the modernisms they represented. The art and craft of Eric Gill and David Jones in the Catholic community in Ditchling is compared with the paintings and interiors of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at Charleston and the surrealist collaborations of Edward James and Salvador Dalí. The unexpected network of Serge Chermayeff, Eric Ravilious, László Moholy-Nagy, Henry Moore and John Piper is revealed; despite sharing socialist ideas, they produced very different artistic output from striking architecture and sculpture to innovative photography and film. Also included are the haunted watercolours of Edward Burra in Rye and the surrealist photos by Eileen Agar, Paul Nash and Lee Miller demonstrate the often tense relationship between artists and their environment.”

Sussex provided the inspiration but all these artists and writers were outsiders in their new surroundings. Never settling, some brought unconventional ideas, others found nightmares in the most picturesque of scenes, but ultimately they challenged the idea of Sussex as an idyllic escape.

Jon Dowling

28th January – 23rd April 2017

Two Temple Place,

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