Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Elemental at Burghley Sculpture Garden 26th April - 2nd November, 2014

Pete Rogers, Lunicycle
The 2014 exhibition of sculpture at Burghley explores elemental geometry, the activation of kinetic sculpture through the elements, as well as chemical and alchemic associations.
Exciting kinetic sculptures include ephemeral apparitions by Andrew Lee that shimmer and dissolve from presence to absence on the slightest breeze. His Wind Ball 1 is spherical, yet its silhouette frequently softens and blurs when the wind re-orientates its silvered elements. The sculpture’s dance is a balletic and mesmerising sight, especially when sparkling in the sun. According to the artist the wind “becomes the art object” so “the sculptures are more like the instruments that make it possible.”Maggie Rose’s Twinkle Twinkle is composed of hundreds of lightweight reflective discs. A shimmering slice of funky disco, whose fluidity changes intensity according to the wind and viewing angle.

Wind also provides the locomotive power for a sculpture floating on Burghley’s lake. Lunicycle by Pete Rogers references the eight phases of the moon’s wax and wane, and similarly rotates in a circular fashion. The moon discs function as sails and the sound of them switching over their booms serves to increase the sculpture’s sailing connotations, as well as giving sonic expression to the wind’s speed and direction.

Several artists explore elemental form, akin to the singular and monolithic geometry of prehistoric sculpture, architecture and veneration. Sheila Vollmer often exploits the repetition of a unit to build a whole, but this doesn’t result in coldly formal compositions; quite the contrary. For example, the rhomboid Beast Line is vibrant and animalistic as the title suggests. It is further enlivened by its silver grey exterior encapsulating a bold red interior.

Mark Beattie’s Global Odyssey draws a centrifugal maelstrom of energy. The external definition of form is more tightly restricted to its spherical extents, whereas the interior implodes into darting linear spirals. A similarly elemental geometry is present in the sculpture of Julian Wild. His Uglifruit is a vertiginous and minimal sculpture with a twist, whereby its strict geometry has literally been knotted into itself.

Sheila Vollmer, Beast Line

More orchestrated relationships are punctually delivered by Time Piece, a neon sculpture by Andrew Stonyer. Located in the ice house, the clock face of the work’s temporal content reflects the circular architecture. His luminous sculpture charts the passage of time: a simultaneously archaic and contemporary concern. The seemingly simple means of delivery creates a rich work in which varying hues and tones of coloured light merge to illuminate one of the more fascinating buildings on the estate: an antique refrigerator that fought the advance of warming seasons.

The final group of sculptures explore the representation of the four ancient elements believed to comprise all matter on our planet, namely: earth, water, air, and fire. Here, they give cause to several sculptures that seek to give them a contemporary equivalent, including those by Nita Rao and Stuart Ian Frost.
Julian Wild, Uglifruit

Nita Rao’s On The Threshold is linear essence that seeks to depict watery concerns; a fluid sculpture that evokes both a spindly boat and skeletal leaf. It hovers and swings thanks to its suspension from a lime tree. This airborne sculpture is further distinguished by its bold colour, which derives from having been wrapped in Indian muslin ordinarily used for turbans. This sculptural mummification infuses her sculptures with a kind of latent spirituality.

A burning dynamic that reveals the transformative power of fire has been scorched by Stuart Ian Frost into the dual trunks of Iris. His pyrotechnic drawing adorns two halves of an oak felled from Jubilee Wood in Burghley’s parkland. Each has been branded with the fleur-de-lis, a heraldic motif present on some of the Elizabethan textiles in the house. The smaller trunk depicts the regal flower as a positive motif, whereas its larger counterpart converts it into a negative pattern. The burnt twins strike a powerful pose, leaning against the downward slope of the land to frame the surrounding laurels and shrubs.

Nita Rao, On The Threshold

The show comprises 24 intriguing sculptures by 16 artists that give vision to how the elements can influence sculpture’s motion and appearance. Combined with the remaining sculptures of elemental geometry, they demonstrate how a single word such as elemental can illicit many varied and significant sculptural responses, extending from the ephemeral to the permanent and to the terrestrial and cosmological.

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