A Trip to the V&A

In one day I was hoping to see as many priceless items and objects as possible…

I love taking the train up to London for a day trip, it’s far enough away to feel like a real journey, but just close enough to not zap all my energy.

A day is just the right amount of time to enjoy the city without feeling completely stifled by the stuffy busyness of the whole place. I studied in London when I was at University and whilst I certainly appreciated the wild nightlife at the time, I’m more than happy to forgo this in favour of a quieter, more peaceful existence. Needless to say, I’m always glad to get off the train in Brighton and breathe the fresh air – it’s amazing what a difference 50 miles or so makes!

I took the early train from Brighton, wanting to make the absolute most of the day, getting into London for just before 9am. King’s Cross was rammed with commuters, rushing with their heads down and their ears plugged. I’m always a little shocked at the brusqueness of Londoners, for people who live just a short distance away they act completely different to people from Brighton. Once I’d got my bearings, I set my sights on the Victoria and Albert Museum, my first destination for the day.

The museums in our country are taken for granted somewhat; they’re free to enter and showcase some of the rarest finds in History, yet whenever I visit them, the only other people there are tourists!

The V&A, as it’s affectionately known, is my personal favourite of all the London based National Museums. It’s a grand building to look at let alone step inside and it’s filled with the kind of art that you could spend hours staring at. Although it sounded like some kids were having a lot of fun in the interactive Winnie the Pooh exhibition, that wasn’t why I’d made the trip up. I made my way straight to the Märit Rausing Gallery to explore the huge range of glass items that they have on permanent display.

One particular that stood out for me was James Maskrey’s spectacular Antarctic Expedition. This exciting piece attempts to chronicle the story of three Antarctic explorer who were racing to the South Pole in 1911, on a mission to collect the eggs of Emperor Penguins. Only one of these explorers returned alive from the mission, later describing it as the ‘worst journey in the world’. Ferocious snow storms and dwindling food supplies were a constant threat – Maskrey’s piece attempts to capture that spirit of adventure, as well as the resilience with which these men acted over a hundred years ago.

The two part piece is made up of a clear glass bottle, much like the one they would have taken with them for water and a teacup, also similar in style to one they would have used. The cup has the appearance of porcelain, it’s milky white complexion is an illusion though, as is the photograph of the adventurers set within it. This cup and the photograph embedded in it are both made entirely of glass – the artist used decals and transfers to take the detail of the original photograph, printing the image onto a completely glass surface.

It’s pieces like these that make me rethink the nature of glass and just how expansive a medium it really is.

By the time I’d wandered my way around the V&A the sky was already beginning to grow dark. As the street lights started to blink on, I hurried myself back to Kings Cross to catch the train – eager to get away from the smoke and the fumes.

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