I love East London but one thing I do wish I was closer to are all of the large museums so I could pop in when I had a spare hour. When I do get over to South Kensington, I normally head straight over to the Natural History Museum (who can resist dinosaurs?), although having had a phenomenal experience at Dinosnores, I now feel a bit resentful when I have to share it with thousands of other people.
This time, I headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum instead as there was something I wanted to see there.
As you walk in, one of the first things you focus on is the gorgeous Chihuly glass chandelier hanging over the welcome desk.
If you’re interested in seeing more of his work, an exhibition of Chihuly’s work is opening on Saturday at the Halcyon Gallery and will run until Saturday 5th April.
But as you walked in, you probably saw the Chihuly but didn’t look up to see this beauty of a chandelier by Bocci.
The main reason for my visit was the see the installation in the John Madejski Garden by Xu Bing – Travelling to the Wonderland. He has transformed the central water feature into a landscape of Chinese mountains, built from layers of stone collected from five different locations in China. The mountains are dotted with ceramic houses in various styles (both modern and traditional) and animals and birds.
The whole thing is inspired by the classic Chinese fable Peach Blossom Spring which describes a land in which people lead an ideal existence in harmony with nature unaware of the outside world.
Tiny animals like monkeys scale the mountains.
There are even fish lurking at the bottom of the water feature.
Fake blossom around the installation reminds me that we should be getting some of the real stuff soon, breaking through the grey dismalness of the current weather.
In the China room, there are accompanying works including a large-scale calligraphy work. The font is designed by the artists and although it initially looks like Chinese characters, upon closer inspection it apparently reveals English words. I’m not sure I see it myself, but maybe I just needed to spend longer deciphering it, like one of those Magic Eye puzzles.
While I was there I decided to have a wander around generally. What astounds me the most about the V&A is the sheer scale of the place and the huge variety of stuff that they have in there, previously I’ve barely scratched the surface of their collections.
I spent a fair bit in the architecture room just looking at drawings. Architecture fascinates me and is something that in a dream world (ie. one where I’m good at maths and technical stuff) I would be involved in.
I also discovered the glass room (how gorgeous is the below staircase? It’s not entirely clear in the photo but those are individual coloured glass blocks all piled on top of each other to form the spindles) and a room full of massive plaster casts, and when I say massive I mean humungous, see below!
Before I left and the museum closed, I popped out into the garden one more time for a last look at Travelling to Wonderland and then I left this little guy to his computer love.
The installation is in place until Sunday 2nd March if you want to have a look yourself.