Walking today through the centre of Woking in Surrey, it is hard to recognise that the town has a long history, having been the site of a 8th century monastery called Wochingas with a mention of the town in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Its recent history revolves around H.G.Wells who wrote “The War of the Worlds” while living here, the aircraft industry at nearby Brookwoods and the motor car industry at the McLaren (Formula 1cars) Technology Centre. The town centre is not distinguished by the quality of its modern architecture, but the town has more recently made its mark with the architecture of two new buildings, the Lightbox and the Living Planet Centre for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The Lightbox, designed by Marks Barfield, architects of the London Eye, was opened eight years ago and looks as good today as when it opened. Judging by its arts programme, it has been a great success, in part due to the fact that it houses the Ingram collection of modern art. The building is simple, well-detailed and clad in wood with aluminum panels coloured in five shades of gold and silver which are gradually acquiring their patina. Inside, a long staircase runs up the height of the building connecting the galleries which provide a variety of spaces for local and international exhibitions, plus the permanent collection.
The building is home to a rotating collection from the collection of Chris Ingram who has built up one the most significant private collections of Modern British art in the UK. The Lightbox lives up to its name and the lighting of the building interacts with the bronze sculptures and adds a variety of reflective colours to it.
The latest international exhibition, opened this week, is Damien Hirst’s “New Religion”, organised in conjunction with the British Council. Hirst examines the relationship of art with science and technology around the themes of mortality and faith, which is highlighted in “New Religion” with its images of death, disease and illness, pharmaceutical products, medical diagnosis and medical procedures and twists them into something that needs careful analysis and several visits by the viewer to examine the details of the works.
A fascinating exhibition by one of Britain’s greatest living artists and a recognition of Woking as a local and international centre of the arts through the Lightbox.