The Landscape Series.

This Series is a Collaboration with Photographer and Documentary Cameraman Stephen Foote.   Click on any picture to see it full size.

Stephen Foote and I met up after 30 years in 2014. We were good friends as teenagers, both rather disengaged with school, both making art in our own time. 30 years on we both still use art work as a major part of our interaction with this nutty world. Sharing our images was a key way we got to know each other again and harnessing that process in a joint project was simply a way of capturing a what was occurring naturally. We set a straightforward ” Artist Responds to Landscape ” brief and kept a very open mind while we walked, talked, Steve took pictures and I just took it all in. We met every few months and sent each other pictures of the ensuing work in-between times.

Steve is also a Cameraman and was involved in filming for Panorama during the early, very heated phase in Kiev and the Crimea. I was coming to the end of the Up Is Down Series . Our first visit was Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea. Then we went into Porth Yr Ogof caves and had a mind-blowing day for me; we spent hours in the dark, natural cave while Steve took a fab series of photographs. I stood in the river in the darkness, held the lights and listened to the flow of water, felt the under-ground breezes. From there the project clarified for us as the travels of the water from the sky above the Brecon Beacons to the river, especially the Tawe, down to the wide bay at Swansea, and out into the Ocean where much of it will return to the clouds and begin the circle again.

These pictures are roughly in sequence for the progression of work over time, with Steve’s Photos next to the related Sculptures in some cases.

Bracelet Bay , Stephen Foote.

Bracelet Bay , Stephen Foote.

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Up Is Down- in progress

Up Is Down- in progress

Water and Stone, Bracelet Bay, 2014, 24cmH x 56cm L x 33cm W, Marbled architectural ceramic.

Water and Stone, Bracelet Bay, 2014, 24cmH x 56cm L x 33cm W, Marbled architectural ceramic.

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

in progress, July 2014

Wyvern I in progress, July 2014

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

 

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

It was this fabulous picture of Bracelet Bay by Steve that shifted me abruptly into figures, much to my own surprise.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Wyvern II, 2014, 69cm H x 54cm W, x 31cm D, ceramic.

Wyvern II, 2014, 69cm H x 54cm W, x 31cm D, ceramic. Photo Steve Foote.

 

A narrative developed that was also influenced by the awesome storms of the previous winter. A trio of figures, the Guardians of the Aquasphere, the Lithosphere and the Atmosphere, arose and they and their Sentinels and Harbingers took on characteristics that the many life-forms of the Biosphere could relate to so that all would understand what was happening; The Triumvirate were going to let loose their forces. This was not to threaten or  punish. They simply knew it was time.

Each sphere over laps with the others. The Biosphere is particularly inter-woven with the other 3 spheres with the addition of sun-light. I  started looking at forms and ways to describe the Biosphere’s part of this story…the whole project is marvellously challenging! I’m far from sure I can pull this off but I’m loving the attempts. Steve’s stunning photographs seem to contain the whole mysterious narrative, characters and all, and I refer to them daily.

Here’s some links  to interesting, key parts of the research for the Landscape Series:

How the Earth Made Us, a fantastic BBC 2 series by Professor Iain Stewart.

-An interesting article put out in 2016:  Business Insider Australia

-here’s that information with a really interesting, informative video of leading scientist, James Hansen explaining the findings.

Naomi Klien‘s fascinating and very readable book, This Changes Everything and the exciting, optimistic organisation of the same name.

The Up is Down Series.

 

 

Brecon Beacons, by Steve Foote.

Brecon Beacons, by Steve Foote.

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Osprey II, 2015

Osprey II,

Osprey II, 2015.

The Atmosphere over the Lithosphere in the form of an Osprey.

 

Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Stephen Foote.2014

Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Stephen Foote, 2014. We spent hours down here and as I assisted the photography, standing in the river and pitch black, I felt the underground wind and heard all the sounds of water travelling through the rocks. Extraordinary. A living, breathing world of unparalleled beauty.

 

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Guardian of the Atmosphere, The Osprey

The Wyvern and the Osprey, 2014.

 

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The Wyvern, Guardian of the Lithosphere.

The Lithosphere has The Wyvern, a shape-shifting dragon that has taken a number of forms so far.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014.

The Leviathan in progress, Sept 2014.

The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.

The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.

 

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Bracelet Bay, Stephen Foote.

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Wyvern VIII, 71cm L x 39cm H x 34cm D, Cavin Morris Gallery, New York, USA.

 

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The Wyvern.

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Bracelet Bay, Stephen Foote.

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The Wyvern.

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 Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic.

Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery, New York, USA.

Osprey, 2015, 31.5cm H x 21cm W x 17cm D, black architectural ceramic.

Osprey, 2015, 31.5cm H x 21cm W x 17cm D, black architectural ceramic.

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One of the exits of Porth yr Ogof Caves.

Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic. Photo by Steve Foote.

Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic. Photo by Steve Foote.

Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic.

Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery, New York, USA.

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Wyvern

The Guardian of the Aquasphere took on the form of the Mountain Ponies that run free in the Beacons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA _F148186 _F148792 _F148797 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   _F147964   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA _F148811   _F148835  _F148822   _F148837

These are fantastic years in the Studio; I am harnessing the narrative and collective sides of the monumental Community Sculptures of the last 13 years. But I’m free to use any scale. The architectural clays I use have given me the freedom to go anywhere in space. My amazing collection of Sculptor and Ceramist friends, from all over the world, on Facebook have encouraged and inspired me enormously. I’m settled into my lovely big Studio ( and gotten over the shock of having it at last!). Stephen and I communicate very well and we egg each other on.

Many thanks to everyone who has visited the work and given invaluable advice and feed-back. We will continue with this series of sculptures until it is done. I will add new images as they become available so that a progression is shown._F149794 _F149792 _F149774  _F149778  _F149751_F149767

 

Wyvern VIII, 38cm L x 14cm H x 15cm D.

Wyvern IX, 38cm L x 14cm H x 15cm D. 2016

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D.

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D. 2016

I have been chasing a surface that will describe the 3 spheres. I have added earth pigments in a binder to add soft, natural colours and a silky texture.

 

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Aqua-sphere Sentinel, 77cm H x 40cm W x 23cm D.

Aqua-sphere Sentinel, 77cm H x 40cm W x 23cm D.

Leviathan IV, 35cm H x 61cm L x 29cm D.

Leviathan IV, 35cm H x 61cm L x 29cm D.

Lithosphere's Sentinel, 19cm H x 29cm L x 15cm D.

Lithosphere’s Sentinel, 19cm H x 29cm L x 15cm D.

The Land I, 24cm H x 65cm L x 19cm D.

The Land I, 24cm H x 65cm L x 19cm D. 2016.

‘The Land’ sculptures are very much about the Brecon Beacons, the area around Osprey Studios. They combine all the spheres.

The Land IV, 15cm H x 26cm L x 14cm D.

The Land IV, 15cm H x 26cm L x 14cm D.

The Land III, 15cm H x 43cm L x 12cm D.

The Land III, 15cm H x 43cm L x 12cm D.

Biosphere Sentinel II, 23cm H x 48cm L x 28cm D.

Biosphere Sentinel II, 23cm H x 48cm L x 28cm D.

The Land V, 15cm H x 32cm L x 14cm D.

The Land V, 15cm H x 32cm L x 14cm D.

Leviathan VI, 12.5cm H x 21cm L x 8cm D, Cavin Morris Gallery, New York, USA.

Mountain River Sentinel I, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D. Oriel Bevan Jones Gallery, Carmarthen, UK.

Mountain River Sentinel I, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D.

Mountain River Harbinger, 37cm L x 21cm H x 19cm W. Oriel Bevan Jones Gallery, Carmarthen, UK.

Mountain River Harbinger, 37cm L x 21cm H x 19cm W.

Coastal Harbinger II, 43cm L x 29cm H x 22cm W.

The Land VIII, 21cm L x 12cm H x 11cm W.

Coastal Harbinger, 35cm L x 23cm H x 16cm W.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital Woodland Walk, Powys, UK. 2017.

August 2017 and the focus is currently on Antarctica:

Christopher-Michel_flickr_Web

Fantastic image from Christopher-Michel_flickr_Web. Interesting article here: //goodnature.nathab.com/larsen-ice-shelf-breakoff-our-future-in-ice/

Guardian of the Valley I, 2017.

Guardian of the Valley I, 2017.

This fascinating article by Randall Morris about Masks describes the process that I am trying to work through here. I have learnt a great deal from Randall since joining Cavin Morris Gallery. His amazing collection and beautiful writing brings clarity to, and pin points the essence of, what is important in art. I am an animist by nature and it is my job to portray what I see but the distractions can be over-whelming.

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Pennard Primary Lead Creatives Project, part 3.

The upper part of Pennard Primary School’s sculpture is complete, cut into sections and drying. It has been a joy to build. The pupils panels and tiles for the lower half are drying beautifully. I’m putting together the Book now and it’s lovely to review the wonderful time we had with this fabulous group.

What do artists do all day? Guest-speaker Talk for Carmarthen School of Art.

At Bracelet Bay, Wales, UK.

At Bracelet Bay, Wales, UK.

I‘m a dual national, British/American and since my early teens I’ve been working intuitively using techniques, disciplines and materials from Figurative Sculpture and hand-built pottery to make mostly Abstract forms that describe ideas and experiences. I recently learned my work is Bio-morphic which sounds way better than some of the other things it’s been called.

I am going to give you an over-view of my work with  the whys and where-fores of doing it my way and  some ‘what’s the point thrown in’.

The slide show is a collection of images from the last 10 years and it will roll on while I babble through the ideas that work for me. I am 400 years old and I’ve been doing this for a Millenia, so my theories are tried and tested to breaking point. I work in clay but the majority of what I’m going to say applies to all art-forms.

Like all self-employed, vocational, sole-traders with a micro-buissness,(Yep! that’s us! ) our job is a roller-coaster over-loaded with risk running on  low cash-flows.

There is a harmful myth that Artists are “different”. That isolates us. It makes it easier to not pay us. It makes prospective clients nervous about how to approach us. And it can distract us from important parts of our Practice.

Loads of  people, from Brick-layers to Social-Workers, pour their hearts into what their work.

And they all wake up at 3am, wide-eyed with The Doubts: is their work good enough, shouldn’t they be doing more, in a different way, etc, etc!

I still get The Doubts about every 2 months. You look at your work and think “ this is RIDICULOUS!!! What am I DOING? I’ve really lost it this time.”

And some-times it’s true! You have, in fact, gone down a very bad road, for months, and it’s time to retrace your steps that bit older and wiser. 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. Call in colleagues and get some sugar-less feed-back to help to see your way forward. And be ready to return the favour.

At Rhian Goodhand's Glass Studio.

At Rhian Goodhand‘s Glass Studio.

Or Type 2 Doubts where you walk in the Studio and think “What? Make sculpture? Me?!I can’t do THAT!?” The blank mind, empty hands…has your Muse and your Talent run off together and left you useless for ever?

Nah, you just need a break. Get outside, read, feel, experience, re-charge. Then get back to making lots of work: some of it will be really good.

Stephen Foote Photography.

Stephen Foote Photography. Steve and I have an on going collaborative project, The Landscape Series. We challenge each other and exchange really valuable, no-frills feed-back about the work. It has definatly upped my game.

Isolation and The Doubts wreak havoc with a lot of Artist’s Careers. There is all kinds of help and support for Micro-businesses out there. Assume that it WILL apply to you. Keep books on your accounts. Talk shop with other Sole Traders.

And it is important to have some structure for, and understanding of, your creative process that will give you the confidence to hold your ground and routes to solve the problems.

Working Intuitively

Where DO our ideas come from? Why do some pieces seem to build themselves using your hands?? Why don’t we think that is creepy?

Intuition is made up of your memories and perceptions that together are your Knowledge.

Many of your memories come from actual experiences, physical and emotional, many from films, books, art, daydreams and your imagination.

Add the strong pull of the cocktail of hormones that are involved in our every move, societal  influences, Collective Consciousness, now accepted science and it must play a role along with  Inherited Memory.

Every bit of your life  stops off to be  shaped by your perception on the way into your memory bank.

The quality of your Perception is set by your learning and  experience and it will develop and change. So your memories will change too. Your brain reviews memories every 2 years or so and chucks out the irrelevant, rarely used stuff and re-files handy stuff according to up-dated perceptions.

So your Knowledge and your ability to gain knowledge is limited by prejudice, ignorance and inexperience.

Artists have an important role in Society. One of Barbara Hepworth’s many strengths was the conviction that societies, as far back as we know, have always needed and supported artists so that they could gain the skills required to unravel and describe the ideas, beliefs, moralities and experiences of the group so that everyone was on the same page.

So it’s very important to educate yourself and develop your perception constantly throughout your career to avoid being narrow minded or irrelevant.

Like Actors we need to rehearse the physical characteristics of emotions and experiences so that we can capture and express them.

A vivid intuition needs skilled craftsmanship that can capture and communicate ideas. Scintillating profound knowledge will be wasted if you are all thumbs.

Just like musicians and sportsmen, Artists need to train the specific muscles needed. And become expert in handling the medium that suits us best.

So we need to practice reliable, effective exercises throughout our career to keep our minds and bodies fit for creativity.

 

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Henry Moore at work.

Henry Moore at work.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

                                               

As a teen I loved the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, ( I still do) and I researched and did my best to re-create their education for myself. This was very much at odds with the currant art-practice 35 years ago and I got a lot of hassle for it at college. I get the impression that would not be the case here at Carmarthen School of Art. I was angrily accused of being ‘very early 20th century’ when I refused to explain my coil-built abstracts in terms of inner psychological angst and insisted on life drawing.

(My pieces were about inner psychological angst, mind, but I didn’t need tuition for that – I was already really good at it).

For 15 years, as well as making my art work, I went to any life-drawing, portrait or figure sculpture classes going. And I drew the classical sculptures, skeletons and taxidermy in museums as well.

Eventually  I switched to setting myself exercises using photos and skeleton diagrams. I still do this regularity to sustain the skills and measure my ability.

What you gain from this training is this:

  • a broadening of your ability to see and perceive what is in front of you.
  • a collection of memorised forms, details and structures that enrich your visual vocabulary.
  • an understanding and appreciation of the structure of forms.
  • fine motor-skills in your body specific to your art-work.
  • disciplined systems for organising the huge, over-whelming amount of information in front of you so that you can work with it.
  • clear mile-stones to aim for and use to assess your fitness: Figure study has definable rights and wrongs.

    The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .

    The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .

Add practicing and experimenting with your materials. And challenging your ideas by no holds barred discussion about everything with all kinds of people, not just artists. And understanding  emotions by sharing your own with trusted friends and caring about others.

I got into coil-building when I was 20, after my Foundation year ( fantastic course) when I was teaching pottery at a Summer Camp in the USA.

Life was very chaotic and stressful at that time and the rhythm and intense, absorbing relationship with clay that you get through coil-building and the slow, steady progression revealing the form drew me in like a sanctuary.

Big round pots, glazed hideously, developed into a-symmetric vessels with sheer clay surfaces, then to forms involving spirals, then sculptures incorporating birds, especially the Ospreys I watched on the New England lakes.

2 years on: I went to Exeter College of Art And Design here in the UK for a BFA in ceramic sculpture. The interior space of the forms ceased to be relevant and gradually the vessel openings were gone. My 2nd year was spent at Boston University’s excellent and intense Program in Artisanry, where the mostly post-grad potters could discuss foot-rings for hours with out being boring.

For 18 years, until I was 30, I did stints of waitressing double hours for a few months and then studio work for as long as my money lasted. I always worked from home, including when that was my Van. I fired at community centres, taught pottery and sculpture to Adult Ed, special needs and Summer Camp.

When I was about 28 I had gotten to coil-building naturalistic figures and of course I was struggling because that’s a fool’s errand right there.

I had made one that wasn’t to awful and this guy says to me, “yeah, that’s pretty nice, I guess you built it solid and hollowed it right?”

What?

Always get outsiders to look at your work in progress. Ask them “ what’s the first thing you see?’ and remove the plastic. Those fresh, 1st impressions can be so helpful. If there is a figurative element ask ‘is this about a character?’ , ‘Who are they, what are they doing?

If they say ‘it’s a rooster running away’ and you were aiming for The Leviathan, Guardian of the Aquasphere shape-shifted to the form of a rampant horse, consider the differences between the 2 and you have the bit that needs work: the head was too narrow and the ears needed to be stronger.

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D.

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D.

Do it yourself: Take a break every 1 1/2 hours and go clear your eyes for 15 minutes. Load the washing machine, check messages. When you go back to the piece what’s the first thing you notice? It might be a problem. It might be a lovely bit.

So I spent the next 10 years working solid and hollowing out, loosing the advantage of the rhythm and voice of coiling but gaining the advantage of working on the whole form from the outset and being able to change your mind right up to the last minute.

You can separate the artsy work from the technical stuff: they use different parts of your head and don’t always mix well.

You block out the basic sizes,

Rough out the form

Refine all over in at least 5 cycles of adding/ subtracting.

Let it go leather hard on the surface,

Cut/Hollow/rebuild.

Do finishing touches in 3 rounds: Remove, Add, Burnish (especially the edges)

It’s a great method for any shape up to 75cm x 50cm – above that the weight becomes a pain and you are better off working hollow with a clay armature. You still might hollow parts out.

Or you can Coil-build from a scale model using an internal support structure made of clay….

Around about when I turned 42 I got the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to try: working really big.

I made a 6m long x 2m high sculpture with 9 life-sized figures and a 2m x 1.5m piece with wildlife, both incorporating seating for a  community regeneration group.

Both were ‘blocked-out’ in large brick-clay coils  using a scale model, then continued by adding and subtracting clay. They were then cut into sections which were hollowed out. The internal supporting structure ( built w/ smaller coils) was discarded. The sections were fired and reassembled by a builder with cement, concrete, steel reinforcing and a lot of swearing.

A year or so later I was running a community Sculpture Studio aimed at ‘The Hard To Reach’ by a fab Regeneration group The Creation Development Trust in Blaengarw. (near Bridgend). My group were awesome. They were mostly dealing with awful mental health problems so they couldn’t get jobs and had time, energy and intense life experiences to burn.

After they had all made some lovely things for friends and family it became clear they were going to drift off.  So we decided to make a big brick-clay sculpture together for the new park planned by the ferocious Community Council for a big area of waste ground.

Calon Lan would tell the epic story of Blaengarw from it’s notorious ancient history of un-tamable Silurians, through to the industrial revolution, mining, bitter strikes, a culture in ruins and a slow, often tortuous, re-building.

Parc Calon Lan, Blaengarw, South Wales.

Parc Calon Lan, Blaengarw, South Wales.

There was something important to do for every kind of Volunteer from researching through the local archives to the hard labour of building the structure 5m long x 2 m high in a basement barely big enough, designing letter stamps and carving narrative reliefs.

I’ve done about 14 of these intensely collaborative projects now in various sizes. Because the sculptures are big you can fit in loads of different ideas and styles. The Sculptor’s job is to find ways  to included as many people as possible and make damn sure the piece looks awesome (because your Volunteers trust you and deserve no less in return for the huge amount of time they donate), while being safe and vandal-proof because it’s in a Public place.

I use the frame-work of ‘Co-production’ for all my projects. The very interesting theory is that humans are naturally co-operative and strive to be a useful, valued part of the group. So a good group leader asks for something in return for what they have to offer. Studies have shown that if you don’t use this method your project will probably be ineffective in enabling real change to take place. (All my funders have been involved in Community Regeneration on some level).

People will go all out if they feel valued as a contributor. If you are the Benevolent Professional bestowing your gifts upon the weak and needy you are requiring them to stay weak and needy. They will begin to drift off when they can’t stomach being patronised any longer. They wont have gained anything so your project has failed, leaving you frustrated and stressed and your reputation damaged.

So I offered to trade my skills on the tricky bits (eyes, hands etc), teach skills and ensure the final sculpture was fabulous in exchange for the local knowledge and experience, stories and symbols and the work each person took on for the task.

Building Calon Lan in a small basement.

Building Calon Lan in a small basement. (How to..)

Sharon was invaluable. She worked on every stage.

Sharon was invaluable. She worked on every stage.

Jim, ex-miner, ensured that the images were accurate.

Jim, ex-miner, ensured that the images were accurate.

A lot of Public Art is made like this though not always so hands-on. It’s expensive because Volunteers need a lot of time but you get massive value for money because  all the skill-sharing and co-production feeds back into the community.

These projects really highlight how much Visual Artists have to offer.

We specialise in non-verbal communication. A lot of people learn that way and regularly struggle to ‘find the words’ particularly after a trauma.  We can guide people towards the form of  wordless communication that best allows them to express themselves ‘beyond words’.

While hands and eyes are busy on artwork people find talking openly feels much less dangerous. They start to take themselves less seriously as mistakes are made on the art and every one laughs uncritically. Problems fall into perspective and become interesting challenges.

We laughed and cried a river while making the big brick clay Pit Marker Memorials because of the stories  we were telling in clay. We worked from the heart, unashamedly: we wanted to share the tears. Now people with generations of miners in their families go to the Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, set by a pond on the mountain where the pit head was, to remember and mourn. And visitors and new comers can go there and better understand the village and the  history that shaped it.

Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, Blaengarw, South Wales.

Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, Blaengarw, South Wales.

This is good, important work that sustains the humanity of our society.

Creative work is at it’s best when it communicates emotion with a sincerity that genuinely connects with the viewer.

Sculpture and pottery have the advantage over many other art-forms of being overtly physical so they can reach people more directly.

A lot of what we make is decorative. Stylish. Attractive. Or Narrative. Intriguing. It is understood and appreciated by the brain. Sometimes everything clicks and a piece is able to reach into people and connect with the heart and perhaps the soul.

That’s the best.

But there is a huge need for all kinds of art-work and processes. Our job is to find our niche in there and get as skilled as we can at providing our part of the  structure of civilisation no less!

I’ve taught clay work to all sorts of people with all kinds of abilities. Many have been inexperienced in creative work. Some people ‘take to it’ very quickly. They transfer skills developed in other activities easily, they are very dexterous.

It gets called ‘Talent’ but that has become a misleading term that stands in the way of a lot of creativity. People are lead to think Talent will come to you if you want it enough or that you are born with it as a blessing. And others are  denied it.

Talent describes prodigies and savants. The rest of us have born and acquired ‘aptitudes’ for particular types of work. As a social species humans come in various types for the good of the group.

Psychologists studying creative aptitude have put forward the idea of ‘Flow’. Flow is when you get lost and engrossed in an activity, time flies etc.

We all recognise this, yes?

They found that 7 out of 10 people experience Flow. 3 do not. Their aptitude is better for different work. Of the 7 that do there is a spectrum with those people lost in Flow or who need to spend a lot of time there at one end and those who can easily dip in and out at the other.

Go to the right point on the spectrum down at the ‘out there’ end, add circumstance and opportunity, training and practice and you will have an artist. All kinds of jobs require high levels of Flow and creativity. We are not crazy or weird, don’t let anyone call you that. Our passion does not set us apart either. People in every type of work pour their hearts into what they do.

I like this idea and it fits in well with my experiences with students and Volunteers. People often describe doing artwork as ‘therapeutic’. So why aren’t we all exquisitely calm?!

I don’t think artwork has medicinal properties but rather ‘nutritional ones: I’m pretty sure many people fall into mental health difficulties because their circumstance denies them access to creativity, non-verbal self expression and Flow.

Part of our ‘calling’ is to build bridges for these people through our own art-work and in guiding them to theirs. And that can be life or death stuff.

A lot of nonsense is bandied around about mental health illnesses fuelling creative genius. It is a cruel Myth. Some geniuses have done what they can to make the best of the awful, destructive  diseases they are stuck with. Many people living with all sorts of disabilities are denied jobs so they choose to spend time productively on art-work.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Home. This lovely man couldn't speak any more but he drew beautifully and loved clay.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Home. This lovely man couldn’t speak any more but he drew beautifully and loved clay.(How to..)

                                                     ————————————

So Sculpture is my first language, the one I use to understand the world and sort out my thinking. And I also use it to communicate with other people.

It can be very difficult to tell if people are picking up on your message. They may have a strong, visceral reaction to your work but, not being able to find the words, say nothing.

A website and Facebook are great for making your work accessible, your ideas clearer and your self approachable. And I have found to my own surprise that I really enjoy running mine. I think my work has made big steps forward since I got into this stuff 3 years ago. Writing posts has clarified my ideas and getting really nice photos of the sculpture has helped me to look at it very objectively while rewarding me for putting in those hours spent on the edges and surfaces. People’s kind words, likes and shares are very encouraging.

And best of all I am part of a world-wide network of Makers of all kinds sharing photos, techniques, ideas, understanding and encouragement. I have learned a tremendous amount. Online stuff  now fills part of that  productive work pattern : 1.5 hours in the studio then break for 15 minutes. I used to do long, punishing hours deep into the night….that’s not ‘Work’. That’s looking a bit like ‘Obsession’ right there.  Now I work 6 days a week, 7-5ish, with proper breaks. Some of that time is paper-work and internet stuff. Some is outdoors walking, thinking, taking it in. Talking with peers, reading, listening. 

Music plays a crucial role in my sculpture. I use particular playlists for each Series. That inspires and guides the forms and brings me back to the right point after a break. My sons are into the vivid, wildly creative Games and animations that have become the voice of their generation and their influence has lead me to my best work yet.

On a good day I look like an Olympic athlete, or at worst, Miss Marple on steroids, but the inconvenient truth is that I’m a dilapidated wreck. So everything in the studio is on wheels and, happily, I have the best assistant on the planet who can pack more sculpture into a kiln than physics can justify. I don’t intend to retire. I’ve already thought through how I could keep making stuff after the loss of any body-part. But will sculpture continue to work for me? Many artists see switching to a different job and life-style a failure or heresy. But our hard-won skills are entirely transferable, especially in a global, multicultural era that relies so much visual communication.

Osprey Studios. SA9 1YT.

Osprey Studios. SA9 1YT.

Studio Diary, Reflecting on Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

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You can imagine how massively pleased I feel when people say my work must be influenced by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. They have been the corner-stone of my development as they have for so many artists of all disciplines.

Last July I finally made my first visit  to the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle. I was invited by a lovely Collector who is from Yorkshire and is a big Hepworth/Moore fan. She has a range of my formative pieces; she is interested in those transitionary points in Artist’s work.

After the visit I poured out the first impressions in the Studio for a few months and now I’m re-studying the work of these giants and reviewing their influence on what I make and the process; The Doubts are always hovering on the edge. They regularly get to me and leave me questioning the validity of my work process; can you really share experience and ideas through abstract form?

Barbara Hepworth was confident that Sculpture was  an  essential natural work for humans, that it must be because we have done it since our very earliest days. Studying her work and biography taught me that you can join forces with your material to translate the voice of your environment into  forms  that will communicate to others.

Hepworth, Moore and most of their extraordinary contemporaries were quite sure that if you trained your craftsmanship thoroughly, and knew and respected your material, you would be able to work directly through your well informed intuition to create valuable, meaningful artwork that ‘felt right’ to you and spoke to others. The incomparable Conceptual Artist Grayson Perry talked about these values in his Reith Lectures this year and stated that perhaps the time we are in now is in need of evocative, powerful art that talks to the soul rather than the intellect.

I decided to write this post over these reflective months to clarify what I’m doing in my own practice. I will add to it over time to help maintain my focus.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

Both Hepworth and Moore studied the figure extensively in the traditional way.

Both Hepworth and Moore studied the figure extensively in the traditional way.

I was one of those kids who was always making things out of toilet paper and sellotape and by my teens, in the 1970s, I was taking my subject seriously. I read everything I could find about my favourites, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore and I tried to copy their  education. I lived in Oxford (UK) at the time so I could spend hours drawing in the Cast Gallery ( an amazing collection of casts from Greek and Roman statuary; extraordinary, muscly figures that kept still!)  in the basement of the Ashmolean Museum. In  Pitt Rivers Museum there was Skeletons and freaky taxidermy ( animals in crazy poses, that kept still.) At Oxpens Tech we did formal life-drawing of nudes and during my BFA hons at the Art Department of Boston University, USA, I was was hugely fortunate to be taught figure and portrait skills by Lloyd Lilly. He was a wonderful and exacting tutor and I owe him a great deal.

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At The Hepworth in Wakefield.

In my early 20’s I lived in Cornwall, UK, for a year or so and visited  Hepworth’s Studios in St. Ives and kissed the ground she walked upon. My work started to properly Abstract around then under the wonderful, great-humoured, very practical guidance of the lovely sculptor Ron Wood.

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So this trip to Yorkshire was a pilgrimage for me. And it was absolutely wonderful. Pippa was a fabulous host and such a great person to be with because she is fascinated with sculpture and comes to it from a different angle than I do, making talking it through with her intricate and revealing. Plus she is a laugh and we had a great deal of fun; she showed me the real Wakefield right down to the Rhubarb Liquor.

The Hepworth at Wakefield.

The Hepworth at Wakefield.

The Hepworth in Wakefield is just awesome. A striking modern building with wonderful light. It’s right in town near the shops and one of the things that made me so jubilant was seeing families who had clearly dropped in for another visit as a treat for their excited kids who were loving it. The Museum staff had groups of children sitting on the floor laughing and chatting and making things in front of these stunning sculptures. No hushed tones, everyone there (and it was busy) was relaxed and enchanted.

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Barbara Hepworth, Figure for Landscape, 1960.

The major Hepworth Retrospective ‘Sculpture for a Modern World’ is at the Tate in London this year, so  everything was re-arranged and Pippa spotted pieces she had never seen before.

This room is fantastic.

This room is fantastic.

The scene was the same at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It was an ordinary weekend and the huge carparks were packed. Families and friends were walking amongst the fantastic sculptures with the relaxed ease of familiarity, having picnics, playing, soaking-in the presence and passion of the artwork.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

 Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Lynn Chadwick.

In the Underground Gallery they had set a completely stunning exhibition ” Henry Moore, Back To A Land”. Such a great title, I was hooked as soon as I saw it as we entered the Park.  The Show  was beautifully lit and spacious. There were pieces I had never seen before.  And lots of preparatory work like small scale models, drawings, found objects like intriguing stones. His tools were  laid out respectfully. I would dearly love to have had this Show as my home. It was wonderful. There is a nice short film that introduces the Show the very well; Henry Moore at YSP.

I had planned to do my BFA,Hons thesis on Henry Moore. I had an appointment to meet with him in 1985. I transported my feint ghost of a self, rigid with respect, awe and generalised terror, to his home and Studio. But sadly he was too unwell that day to see me. One of his very kind, thoughtful and generous assistants took me around the studios and told me all about it. I wrote my thesis about him in the end and I cringe to admit that I can’t remember his name. They were enlarging this sculpture, or one very like it , in polystyrene, scaling up from a small model Henry Moore had made many years previously. The Lovely Assistant told me that Henry often felt very anxious when this happened, that he wasn’t sure it was right to enlarge a piece made to be small. We all get the doubts…!

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Both Hepworth and Moore used evocative, shifting textures that further describe the forms by capturing shadows and reflecting concentrated spots of light. In both of these exceptional venues you can get right up close and inspect the craftsmanship. At YSP, even outside, they do ask that you don’t touch the work  but the sheep use them as windbreaks and scratching posts so most people feel there their gentle caress wont do any harm and it feels very good to send Henry Moore a whispered message of gratitude and recognition from the heart and through the hand.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth. Detail of Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Archaean) 1959.

These details of Rock Form and Figure (Archaean) show the deeply textured surface built up in plaster with the intension of ultimately being bronze. Both Moore and Hepworth had carving as their true-love but both built up forms with plaster, and occasionally clay, for models, to be cast in bronze. Here’s the whole of Rock Form showing the texture across the form;

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964. She wrote of the group of pieces that include this one;’these are all sea forms and rock forms, related to Porthcurno on the Land’s End coast with its queer caves pierced by the sea. They were experiences of people- the movement of people in and out is always a part of them’. I lived in St Agnes on the north Cornwall coast around 1980ish. Fabulous area over-flowing with strange myths, legends and other-worldly beings. People often go there to loose themselves for a while. Hepworth moved her young family there just before WW2 broke out. Her Studio and the work in it left in London was destroyed by bombings. She stayed in Cornwall for the rest of her life, playing her part in the prosperity of the area along with Bernard Leach’s Pottery that continues to this day with the Tate Gallery having a wing there.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

I particularly love Rock Form. The holes face into the form bringing light in to meet within the shelters of the sculpture. Both Moore and Hepworth use the edges of holes so ingeniously to hold or pour light around the forms. Interior space is a massive issue with sculpture made in ceramic because the pieces usually have to be hollow if they are over a certain size wether that space has meaning to the theme or not. Bronzes are hollow too but, no matter what it is made into, ceramics always carries it’s ancient history of pots that is so intricately entwined in our evolution that we describe our bodies as vessels; no one can resist looking into the openings of big pots , can they. I am particularly re-studying the use of holes and the directing of a flow around forms in both sculptors work.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

They both also used grouped forms a lot and one sculpture made of several parts is classic Moore. It’s really hard to do. Currently my work is gradually disassembling; bases reduced as far as possible, interior space integrated with the exterior (to a point…LOT more work needed there…) surfaces deeply textured. But so far any attempts to divide the form reek of pastiche. You can’t fake this stuff, it has to be sincere and real. Henry Moore had a strong relationship with the monumental formations of stone on the moors of his formative environment and tunnelling coal mines of his community. For the last 17 years  I have lived in a landscape and culture shaped by mining; 12 in the Rhondda Valley and making Pit Markers and Memorials across the Valleys and the last 5 years  in the Upper Tawe Valley, with the front of Osprey Studios  facing a working pit and and the back  facing the ancient, worn, mountains of the Brecon Beacons. The Landscape Series ( with the awesome Photographer, Stephen Foote) is all about describing our place within  the Natural World in this location and experiential frame-work; I am guided by the foot-steps of  giants. Pleasingly I live at the foot of Cribarth, the Sleeping Giant mountain, which rounds that train of thought off nicely.

Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

Anthony  Caro was also on show at YSP, with lots of fab models and a few sculptures that got to me because they played with contained space and were beautifully made.

Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

The carvings of Hepworth and Moore are beyond beautiful. The ethos of Truth To Materials, held by their group of artist colleagues for some years, shines out especially in the wood pieces. I took this idea very much to heart as an intense teenager. Clay comes in a multitude of disguises, no  single one speaking for all clay. Each blend of wild clays has it’s own characteristics to be celebrated. I still honour my material and work for it. It is a powerful material fully aware of the ties that bind us to it. It has shaped us and our societies countless times over the Millenia.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, carving in wood and some of her plaster-work tools.

Barbara Hepworth used lines of string or steel to follow the forces running through the forms. Henry Moore often cut lines into the surface. Both are such bold and fantastically effective things to do in certain circumstances. Working from these examples I’ve been using repeated patterns of texture or curves  to achieve the same thing with various degrees of success.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Here’s some other images of beautiful sculptures from Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, some taken by me and many collected from the internet. My thanks to the photographers and I am sorry I do not have your names.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Archaean), 1959. The name derives from the ancient Greek word for beginning or origin. The Archaean period saw the emergence of life on earth. Hepworth was very drawn to standing stones and felt a connection as a sculptor to the people who had been compelled to put them up. She often talked about how a person out in a landscape was a sculpture and part of the landscape. She saw her sculptures as living people. Not in a crazy way but in that her work was not done until the form was imbued with life. Over time her relationship with that piece would evolve and change, just as it does with other living beings.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have this part of The Hepworth, Wakefield as your living room?

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Single Form (Chun Quoit), 1961. Chun Quoit is a Neolithic chamber tomb in the beautiful landscape between St Ives and Land’s End (Cornwall, UK), an area that had a profound effect on Hepworth. It was created with her friend Dag Hammarskjold in mind. When he died not long afterwards she made the stunning, 3metre high version for the new United Nations Secretariat Building in New York City. I can’t deny that I get a kick out of this wonderful sculpture being made and installed there in the year of my birth in NYC!

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Barbara Hepworth.

Here is a charming video with some lovely footage of Hepworth working made by the Kroller-Muller Museum: Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture for a Modern World.

Henry Moore.

Henry Moore.

 

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore at work.

Henry Moore at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work

Barbara Hepworth at work

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sculpture in the Garden

_F147690A Sculpture will transform any Garden, huge or pocket-sized, elaborate or austere. It will need to be made of beautiful, quality materials that have a radiance complimentary to your gorgeous plants. A piece needs to be frost-proof and easily cleaned. No material is as durable or as low maintenance as high-fired Clay.

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Half a Century I (sold) and II, £950 each.

The River, commission.

The River, commission.

 

Wyvern IV,62cm H x 55cm W.

Wyvern IV,62cm H x 55cm W.

 

Wyvern II, 70cm H x 52cm W. £850.

Wyvern II, 70cm H x 52cm W. £850.

 

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Up is Down XV, £300

 

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Harbinger I, £600. (sold)

 

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Up is Down XVI, 26cm H x 56cm L, £300.

 

I make simple , movable plinths with old bricks and attractive stone paving tiles. Dig a hole and put in some bricks to make a foundation if the Sculpture is tall or very heavy, then build a hollow plinth with a small doorway that can double as a safe, cosy home for wild-life. If security is an issue or the piece is tall and vulnerable to high winds sink a stake into the ground, build the plinth around this and have the stake go into the Sculpture- many of my Sculptures are hollow and you can set them securely with cement if needs be.

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Up is Down II, 42cm H x 90cm L, £650.

 

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Half a Century III, 40cm H, £150.

 

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Some of the Sculpture is fresh from the Kiln and new work will be on the go in the Studio.

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

River Harbinger, at Wyndcliffe Court Sculpture Garden, 125cm H, £950 (sold)

 

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The River III, 80cm H, £500

The River III, 80cm H, £500 Sold

 

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The Edge III, 57cm H, £600, (sold).

 

I freely admit I spend countless hours staring into the pond ''thinking''...there are Newts !!

Callipygous, 41cm H x 73cm L, £600.

Callipygous, 41cm H x 73cm L, £600.

In the winter sculptures give the garden focal points and structure while the plants rest.

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Up is Down IV, 44cm H x 58cm L, £1100

 

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Up is Down II, 80cm L, £500

 

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Harbinger I, £600. (sold)

 

The Garden backs right onto the wonderful country-side of the Brecon Beacons National Park

Osprey Studios Garden backs right onto the wonderful country-side of the Brecon Beacons National Park

Sculptures will define each area of your garden. This patio at the end of the garden is a calm, reflective place with dappled shade in the summer and warm sun in spring and autumn. In the winter the sculpture stands out and is eye catching from the house.

 

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Up is Down II, 41cm H x 80cm L, £500.

 

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Musings, 21cm H, £150. (sold)

 

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Musings, 20cm H, £150.

 

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The Edge XI, 77cm L x 49cm H, £600

 

The Edge I , 52cm H, £730.(sold)

The Edge I , 52cm H, £730.(sold)

 

Coastal Harbinger, 79cm L x 53cm H x 36cm D.

Coastal Harbinger, 79cm L x 53cm H x 36cm D.

 

The Edge XII, 71.5cm L x 46.5cm H x 40cm D.

The Edge XII, 71.5cm L x 46.5cm H x 40cm D.

 

The Edge XI, 77cm L x 49cm H x 40cm D.

The Edge XI, 77cm L x 49cm H x 40cm D.

 

 

Wyndcliffe Court Sculpture Gardens.

Henry Moore said that a sculpture was not complete until it was in the place it’s owner chose for it. It is wonderful to see my pieces transformed by new settings; it is the best part of delivering work to Exhibitions.

Wyndcliffe Court is a truly lovely place. You follow a narrow winding road past old-fashioned meadows and woodland to reach the beautiful house.

Wyndcliffe Court has extensive, mature Topiary.

Wyndcliffe Court has extensive, mature Topiary.

 

Wyndcliffe Court Gardens are Grade II listed and designed in the Arts and Crafts style. Situated along the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Tintern, they are beautiful formal gardens with views to the south and east. Open every weekend, they are showcasing contemporary sculptures by local and well-known British artists. Open from 2nd May – 28th September 2014 three sculpture shows will run consecutively, each collection featuring hundreds of sculptures to suit all tastes in a wide variety of mediums, sizes and styles situated throughout the garden and offering the opportunity to view and purchase beautiful sculpture with an outstanding backdrop. 

 

The Gardens are full of unusual, breath-taking, mature plants.

The Gardens are full of unusual, breath-taking, mature plants.

The couple running this new venture are both Artists themselves. They are wonderfully down to earth and very knowledgable about Contemporary Art. They charge a modest Commission and are very supportive to their Artists so prices there are extremely competitive. There is a wide range of styles and materials on show across the enchanting Gardens. There is a delightful Shop and the most perfect Terrace Tea-shop. Their Website is very helpful.

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Callipygous, 41cm H x  73cm L, £600.

Callipygous, 41cm H x 73cm L, £600.

 

Serenity, 53cm H, £625

Serenity, 53cm H, £625

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

Up Is Down X, 52cm W, £550

Up Is Down X, 52cm W, £550

Up is Down IX, 57cm W, £550

Up is Down IX, 57cm W, £550

 

 

Wyndcliffe Court Sculpture Gardens.

Henry Moore said that a sculpture was not complete until it was in the place it’s owner chose for it. It is wonderful to see my pieces transformed by new settings; it is the best part of delivering work to Exhibitions.

Wyndcliffe Court is a truly lovely place. You follow a narrow winding road past old-fashioned meadows and woodland to reach the beautiful house.

Wyndcliffe Court has extensive, mature Topiary.

Wyndcliffe Court has extensive, mature Topiary.

 

Wyndcliffe Court Gardens are Grade II listed and designed in the Arts and Crafts style. Situated along the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Tintern, they are beautiful formal gardens with views to the south and east. Open every weekend, they are showcasing contemporary sculptures by local and well-known British artists. Open from 2nd May – 28th September 2014 three sculpture shows will run consecutively, each collection featuring hundreds of sculptures to suit all tastes in a wide variety of mediums, sizes and styles situated throughout the garden and offering the opportunity to view and purchase beautiful sculpture with an outstanding backdrop. 

 

The Gardens are full of unusual, breath-taking, mature plants.

The Gardens are full of unusual, breath-taking, mature plants.

The couple running this new venture are both Artists themselves. They are wonderfully down to earth and very knowledgable about Contemporary Art. They charge a modest Commission and are very supportive to their Artists so prices there are extremely competitive. There is a wide range of styles and materials on show across the enchanting Gardens. There is a delightful Shop and the most perfect Terrace Tea-shop. Their Website is very helpful.

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Standing Form, 110cm H, £650

Callipygous, 41cm H x  73cm L, £600.

Callipygous, 41cm H x 73cm L, £600.

 

Serenity, 53cm H, £625

Serenity, 53cm H, £625

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

River Harbinger, 125cm H, £950

Up Is Down X, 52cm W, £550

Up Is Down X, 52cm W, £550

Up is Down IX, 57cm W, £550

Up is Down IX, 57cm W, £550