Monday, 18 June 2012

On Form in rural Oxfordshire

Asthall Manor is a beautiful house in 6 acres of historic garden, nestled in a beautiful part of rural Oxfordshire.  Every other year, for one month only, the grounds and house are filled with stone sculpture and the gates thrown open to the public for an exhibition called called "On Form".

I was fortunate enough to visit the exhibition on opening day, the perfect antidote to the grey and dreary "British Summer".  One of our sculptors, Paul Vanstone, was showing a selection of his works so I came to offer support as well as to see to if there were any other British artists whom I would like to represent.

Guy Stevens' "Enterprise Automatic"

What struck me was the quality of the curation; every piece seemed perfectly suited to its background and framing.  Nothing seemed overcrowded, despite the high volume of pieces.  The layout of the grounds lent itself wonderfully to showing variety of art - the formal lawns and sculptural earth banks a stark contrast to the simple mown paths that cut through long grasses, wildflower meadows and low weeds.

Emily Young's heads, in brecchiated quartzite and purbeck freestone respectively

The layout reinforced my belief that the best 'gallery' for exterior sculpture is simple, natural planting uncomplicated and understated.  The pieces that worked best did one of two things brilliantly; they either picked out colours/ forms in the backdrop and represented them in an abstract way, or they were so alien to their location they demanded attention and consideration.

 Joe Smith's "Pear" picks out the cool greys/ blues in the landscape as well as the tree's shady canopy

Another Guy Stevens, "Vortex" shares little with the surrounding scenery other than tone

Another success of the show was the degree of interactivity between sculpture and the public.  Small children rolled down Charles Jencks-style landforms, suspended rock sculptures on pulleys had all ages playing with the levels. 

Some sculpture was partially hidden, I assume that these were the permanent installations lurking in deep planting as seasonal treats.

 Peter Brooke-Ball, these are so simple but just great.

The show runs until the 15th of July, if you have any interest in exterior artwork then I'd highly recommend seeing the exhibition while you can.

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