Exhibition & Sculpture Park at The New Art Centre

I was feeling the need for a country adventure and so went in search of some hare sculptures I had come across online! Being the last day before the Easter break with bunnies on the brain (and chocolate!), this seems fitting for our post this week :0).

Amid the beautiful countryside of Wiltshire is the New Art Centre (at Roche Court), currently exhibiting ‘Shaping a Century: Works by Modern British Artists’ in the Gallery.

The New Art Centre used to be located on Sloane Street, London, but moved to Roche Court in the late 50’s. Roche Court is a Grade II listed building, situated in East Winterslow. It’s completely off the beaten track and although the house itself is a private estate, it is home to the New Art Centre Gallery, Sculpture Park & Artist House.

20160210_130049The Gallery was designed by Architect Stephen Marshall, whose brief was to create a building, which ‘should not dominate, but enhance the existing buildings’ – New Art Centre. Having won a handful of awards, such as the Stephen Lawrence Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Gallery not only enhances the adjoining buildings, but the view of the gardens and with the light dancing through the windows, the work on display in the exhibition.

The entire length of the garden side is floor to ceiling glass, with its structure built seamlessly. All the joinery work is hidden and the floor’s light natural stone compliments the space. The effect is beautiful; it brings the outdoors inside and is deceptively open from the enclosed space you are actually in.

 

Shaping a Century features Barbara Hepworth’s Vertical Form (1962) and Elegy III (1966). Both are bronze pieces, but they offer contrasting approaches in their form. One, the metal looks oxidised giving it tones of blue, with jagged, curling edges. The other, smooth like an egg, with perfectly symmetrical cut outs.

20160210_130222In the display is Henry Moore’s tapestry ‘Three Seated Figures’ (1974). It is one of only seven tapestries Moore had made in Scotland. His daughter Mary Moore, who opened the exhibition,  was the one who suggested he should collaborate with the tapestry studio. Moore is most noted for his sculpture and drawing works, but also created 30 tapestries. The ‘Three Seated Figures’ reflects his common theme of family, mother and child, larger forms embracing the smaller.

Some of my favourite pieces were William Turnball’s Head, for its tones of colour, lines and form. Also  F.E McWilliam’s Mulberry Figure Seven, for its natural material and the character which emanated out and Hulbert Dalwood’s Relief: Bergamo, the hammered effect with tribal like forms in the raised work.

The Sculpture Park and gardens of Roche Court are free to view, with donations gratefully received. Greeted at the main house door, we signed in and were given a map to find and identify the works on display. The trail leads you around the grand house, coming across large and obvious sculptures and ones, which are subtly placed in balance with their surroundings. I felt slightly like I was on a treasure hunt, map in hand and eagerly seeking out what I was so keen to find…the hares!

As I ventured the pathways though, I saw a hedgehog with a pushchair, piled high with bags and a badger with a bin! Laura Ford is an artist who creates incredible life like, bronze work. She brings a social and political message to the viewer, but using the animals to do so makes it less aggressive. Charmed and brought in by the enchantment of these characters, the message reaches you after, when you’re already involved with the sculpture. “Her sculptures are faithful representations of fantasy with sometimes bitter sweet and menacing qualities mixed with tenderness. She uses humour and an acute observation of the human condition to engage with wider social and political issues.” – Bio, Lauraford.net Intelligently created, I absolutely fell in love with these pieces….and even forgot about the hares for a bit!

Another which captured me, was Laura Ford’s ‘Emissary Cats’. A group of suited cats in the middle of the lower garden, with a stunning view for a backdrop. Their stances change from fear, angst, stress, to intense thought or despair. With no facial features they are almost haunting, like something from a nightmare.

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Finally I came across the hares! The artist behind this craftsmanship is Barry Flanagan. ‘Large Monument’ is beautiful. The hare in contemplation, beneath the three hares dancing, translates to me as a reminiscing of a joyful memory, a time of celebration. The hare is a signature symbol in Flanagan’s work, which he says stems from a memory of seeing a hare running across the Sussex Downs. The hares are playful, free and enjoying life. “For the Egyptians the hare represented life. In Chinese mythology the hare is the sole inhabitant of the moon and the symbol of immortality. This mercurial image of the hare has come to stand as surrogate for human existence and our relations to the animal world.” (Bio, Barryflanagan.com)

Further down the field you can see the ’30ft Acrobats’, a bronze sculpture of two hares by the same artist. It is the tallest work he made and again portrays freedom, energy and rejoicing in life. Something about these hares captures me, the essence of fluidity in the sculptures and the depth of emotion, a celebration of releasing. They just drew me in to their world and left me with a feeling of tranquillity.

The Artist House is another of Stephen Marshall’s architectural designs. Although its purpose is to create an exhibition space, it is also an actual functioning house! The kitchen all folds away, disappearing into walls and benches to create an exhibition space with smooth lines and again, floor to ceiling glass windows to let maximum light in. Displaying works from Hepworth, Moore, Ceri Richards, Richard Long, Anthony Caro and more, it is well worth the visit. The Artist House is open at weekends or by appointment only.

On leaving Roche Court, I felt somewhat like I was leaving Narnia! I loved every bit of the magic I found there, the craftsmanship and the accessibility to the sculptures allows you to truly interact and appreciate the work. I thoroughly recommend a visit.

Some resources we have in the library connected to this exhibition can be found below and also some of the other works at the Sculpture Park:

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The exhibition runs until the 27th March 2016, so there’s still time to catch it over Easter!

For more information go to New Art Centre

Robynne Willowby, March 2016

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