Sculpture in the Garden
This autumn The Savill Garden is hosting an eclectic exhibition of sculpture by British artists depicting the natural world. Part of Windsor Great Park, The Savill Garden has been described as one of England's finest woodland gardens (The Royal Landscape). So, this is quite a venue, and one demanding high quality art to enhance the natural beauty always on display.
Little Owl (Stretching A Wing) by Marie Shepherd
There are 41 exhibits on show. Many are in The Summer Gardens, around the Queen Elizabeth Temperate House, and alongside the Azalea Walks. A handful of pieces are scattered around The Glades and The Hidden Gardens. Materials include marble, marble resin, bronze, bronze/iron resin, ceramic, glass and steel in various forms : stainless, galvanised and, lacquered.
The exhibits are strewn across the garden, some in plain view, others more furtively positioned. Wandering through the garden feels a bit like a treasure hunt, a delight for all ages. Spotting a hidden gem amongst the flower borders is quite exhilarating.
The bronze resin Little Owl (Stretching A Wing) is one of many fine birds in the collection. This is joined by a two more owls, a chicken, a raven, gannets and a seagull. Animals include a pig, a horse, a deer, cats, goats, hares, wolves and a dragon. So, quite a mixture of the domestic, the farmyard, the wild and the fantastical. Two human statues in classical form accompany the menagerie.
Other attractions include Ammonite (an oversized fossil), Dihelion - Sundial and the stunning Life Leaf; also a range of abstract pieces including several steel structures and painted glass panels. Some of these exhibits stretch the brief perhaps, but they all deserve attention, especially where they bring something truly extraordinary to the woodland setting.
Here are some my favourite exhibits :
1. Chromosome. Bronze resin.
A charming pair of figures engaged in a manoeuvre which might be competitive, protective, unifying, or quite something else. More than just hand-to-hand contact. Exchanging or communicating. A mystical ritual. A sense of unity, but also resistance. Pushing away from each other as well as bringing in to each other. Having fun. Survival. Who knows ? A simple design, but brilliantly conceived and executed. The design incorporates the forms of both an X and a Y, but there is no real suggestion of gender in the characters, and no difference between them.
Chromosome by Bill Harling
2) Raven. Marble terrazzo (pewter finish).
Set back amongst the dahlias. Harsh lines. No curves. Robotic / mechanic (a bit like a Wallace and Gromit invention). Quite still with absolutely no suggestion of imminent movement. Somewhat menacing in its demeanour. Brilliantly described by a youngster standing next to me as “a bit gangstery”. Ravens are birds not to be trifled with or ignored.
Raven by Paul Harvey
3) Herring Gull. Marble terrazzo.
Appropriately sited along the bank of the watercourse. Similar to the Raven in terms of stillness and straight lines. Strong, simple. No-nonsense. The head is cleverly turned 180 degrees, perfectly naturally. Stony cold but quite beautiful.
Herring Gull by Paul Harvey
4) All The Gang Are Here. Bronze/iron resin.
I don’t see wolves very often, but these specimens look very lifelike. Alive and threatening, on the move and intent on pursuing their prey or some course of evil. Potentially ferocious. Their colour is an intense, dangerous, reddish brown. They could easily belong to a Harry Potter movie as shape shifters in their bestial form. It felt unsafe to turn my back on them as I walked away, and I had to keep looking behind me to check if they were following.
All The Gang Are Here by Carol Orwin
5) Life Leaf. Bronze.
Intriguingly titled. A giant, beautiful ornate leaf with allegedly life-enhancing and untold mystical qualities. Finely crafted. This is more than just a leaf, it’s a whole tree. A deceptively simple piece, and a wonderful metallic addition to the Garden. A masterpiece of craft based on a master design in nature.
Life Leaf by Mark Reed
6) Yoruba Transition. Copper, brass and aluminium.
Hanging on the wall in the Temperate House. Stunningly beautiful. A scintillating combination of metals. Slightly incongruous given the theme of British nature, but a startling and awe-inspiring piece. Adds a bit of mystery to the exhibition and to the Garden. I want to know the stories behind this exhibit.
Yoruba Transition by Nigel Williams
Garden / Earth Culture
This is a fantastic collection of sculptures. A wonderful appreciation of the natural world, expressed through the brilliance of creative human artifice. Set against the plant life we have twisting metal, smooth marble, painted glass; hard elements, treated, melted, annealed, carved, and polished. The exhibits will be gazed upon, treasured in many cases, for a very long time, wherever they eventually make their home.
The craftsmanship on display is mainly British, celebrating British nature and British culture. The Yoruba Mask in the greenhouse is a notable exception. But there is also a universal feel to this representation of the natural world and beyond. There is so much that we can share and appreciate in this garden full of international diversity and grandeur. The items on display are just our versions. Furthermore, I like to remember that our beloved rhododendrons came originally from China, but now I’m straying into the world of horticulture.
It really was an early autumn joy to walk in the sunshine and to discover a pageant of nature-inspired artistic creations amongst the plants and the soil. I should have ticked off the exhibits as I went around. I might just have missed a few. Some may have been hiding from me, but that’s entirely appropriate. There should always be more to look for in a garden.
© Eddie Hewitt 2015