Smith Square, five minute’s walk from the Houses of Parliament, is dominated by St John’s Smith Square, the baroque church designed by Thomas Archer and completed in 1728 which was converted to a concert hall after being bombed in the Second World War.
At one time the Square housed the headquarters of both the Conservative and Labour parties, with the Conservative Central Office at No 32 – 34 from 1958 to 2003. What political intrigue and plotting might have taken place in the corridors of that building? What decisions were made there that affected the future of the country?
The Conservative Central Office moved to more modern premises over a decade ago and the building has since been purchased and refurbished by the European Union (previously in Storey’s Gate) as a centre for debate and cultural exchange in London, including the 12 Star Gallery whose first exhibition in their new premises in 2010 was of British artist Maggie Hambling’s “North Sea”. The 12 Star Gallery celebrates the diverse cultures and artistic talent across Europe and explores political and social issues such as identity, borders and equality. The changing programme of exhibitions are sponsored by individual countries and a review of the gallery’s decade of activities from 2005-15 shows the range of artists and designers from across Europe which has been displayed.
Currently, the gallery is filled with sinister imaginary landscapes seen through telescopic lenses and contrasting high-tech windows of buildings and planes. Dutch artist G-BRECHT depicts a world which explores the destruction that results from conflict – spooky green night-time images of soldiers in action, a plane blasting a missile near to an empty bedroom, war-damaged landscapes and underwater graveyards, devoid of any people. Is he showing a potential world if Europe does not work closely together, rather than fighting each other? What message is he speaking to European politicians about how they need to act in the future, to avoid the landscapes he depicts?