It’s been a while since my last post and if you think I lost interest you are quite likely right. Not everything that goes on is worth sharing and on balance I’d classify most days as mundane (boring, even) and very few sufficiently exciting to want to shout about.
Excitement for something new is what brings me to my blog today – my friend Sarah and I went to see The Sculpture Park nr Farnham today, a place we’d both heard of and had on our lists and which we happened to experience for the first time together. The park hosts in excess of 600 sculptures (for a list of exhibiting artists see https://www.thesculpturepark.com/artists) set along a 4- routes trail which total a modest length of about 2 miles. To ensure that you see everything and walk the full 2 miles you are encouraged to follow the yellow route, then the red, then the blue and finally the green. There is no café at the site which is a shame, but there is a lovely picnic spot where you can enjoy your food and well-behaved dogs on leads are also allowed in.
There is something magical about placing sculpture outside, under vaults of vegetation rather than the vaults of a museum. I think some sculptures are made to live outside, nature enhancing them and their meaning. Others, perhaps less likely candidates for a landscaped forest setting, commune happily with their environment and somehow still manage to fire up the viewer’s imagination. Thematically, there was more variety than I can aspire to tell you about. There was variety in styles and materials too so I’ll stick with mentioning only a few of the works that grabbed my imagination.
As someone with a longstanding fascination for the human body and human body and movement in response to emotion, I can easily group the majority of the sculptures I responded to by this major theme - do bear in mind that there is much much more to be seen and so if this is not your subject that is quite all right, there will be something for you in the park too.
The first piece that moved me, placed quite near the reception hut on my visit, was the delicate bronze sculpture of a pensive girl (artist anonymous), somehow reminding me of the famous Copenhagen mermaid. Her delicate and smooth features almost invited touch, though such interaction with the works is, quite understandably, prohibited in the park. I'd have loved to know more about the artist and their wider body of works but then again a fair number of statues were dotted about annonimously.
There was then the smooth shape of a woman’s back emerging from and running back into the rough stone it was cut in – its rounded shape emphasising the lines of the hunched back made me question what sad feeling caused it to curl back into itself. You will see from the photos below that I attributed it to Yuelong Shi, but I would be pleased to hear from someone who knows the identity of the artist for sure. On a future visit I may well check on this point myself, not least because I feel passionately about correct attribution (check back for a blog on copyright and artists rights).
There were also the Glynn Williams lovers, naked side by side, hands entwined. There are stories to be made and told about this sculpture which can be anything romantic you can dream – rightly or wrongly, my assumption is that the piece depicts Lancelot and Guinevere before the King’s men found them in the forest.
There were also a few Giacommetti reminiscent tall figures dotted about, by various artists, some by Ann Vrielinck – they served as a reminder of the exhibition I am yet to go and see at the Tate Modern.
One of my favourites and the piece I almost took home in much smaller scale was The Visitor by Guido Deleu. With it’s smooth, polished and highly simplified shape it cannot fail to enchant you. The Visitor captures to perfection the tourist gaze, eyes turned up to the sky. I found myself being 'the visitor' often whilst walking through the sculpture park forest, looking right up and marvelling at the height of the trees. At some point, having walked up a hill for some time, I recall looking up and wondering how come I still hadn’t reached the crown of the trees I’d left behind at the foot of the incline.
And lastly, there was something equally fascinating as I found creepy about the large bulk of the naked and bald man whose upper body reminded me of a Buddha statue. This last piece was by Ramon Conde, titled Alma en Pena, and had something harrowing about the demeanour of the character, looking like he was striding purposefully (albeit naked) though the forest. He would make for an interesting exercise in semiotic reading!
I loved many of the other works displayed around the park too – the hippos, the horses, the elf in its barge, the aluminium sailing boat that so beautifully reflected the sunshine, the passionflower and the heron and the chimes etc. I was excited to encounter ‘old friends’ too, pieces I have seen before in other exhibitions and which came here for their interim resting place, such as the sycamore seed by Paul Richardson. My advice is to go and see all this by yourself, take your sketchbook and a picnic and try to spend the day there really enjoying the variety of the works. I doubt you’ll be disappointed!