An Open-Air Art Collection Making Eco Waves
'5 artists, 5 years, 5 media'; a bold new private art collection in a historic, rewilded park
As summer approaches it’s time to break out the spades, buckets and don factor 500 to discover a dynamic private sculpture park that celebrates groundbreaking emerging UK artists with an extraordinary collection of contemporary, environmental open-air art. And it’s in Devon! ‘5 artists, 5 years, 5 media’ is the theme for Exeter’s most private Devon Sculpture Park, a hidden southwestern gem.
The place has spent the last 5 years working with these 5 artists to assemble one of the UK’s more startling collection of conceptual and contemporary open-air art installations. These, in turn, are surrounded by stunning historic architecture from the likes of Robert Adam that overlooks the sea and is enveloped by 100 acres of breathtaking rewilded lands that already boast a number of national conservation firsts - all on the outskirts of one of the UK’s fastest growing cities.
‘5 artists, 5 years, 5 media’ is the work of two conceptual environmental artists, one large scale abstract ceramic artist, one land and performance artist and a video and photo artist. Each artwork has been carefully nurtured and curated in this mesmerising place reimagined into a national showcase for tackling the issues of our time head on. The park oozes eco, nature, 3D and the power of creativity not just in a place that practically defies reality but in the digital realm as well. A mash-up of history, modernity and issues based identity so lacking in our modern way of living life and doing business. A new place Alice in Wonderland would feel at home in.
The artists: Speyer, Howe, Marshall MRSS, Porter and McCluskey have clearly spent a great deal of time in this haven crafting their bold work for something that smacks of a future great collection on Britain’s coastal shores. Their work is a passage through time and media. The art is not only in the park but also online thanks to a bold partnership with LettsArt, the new way of showing, collecting and cataloguing art online. It’s an emerging online platform that can support any number of artists - going beyond the smaller cross section of artists supported in the physical realm in Exeter.
Any time spent with these 5 artists is time well spent. They are passionate about their art form, but also about climate issues, politics and social change. Each adds a great deal to their local communities - some at soup kitchens or food banks, some in schools and some in nature. They make art, write, perform, photograph and communicate the issues of our time with a frank honesty we surely lack. Perhaps this place emboldens them. It certainly inspires.
From the moment you enter the first gate into this eco estate you know you are somewhere different. A peahen wanders casually down the drive, a fallow deer bolts and the sea beckons you from below. The land is wild, vibrant and abundant. A place set out to repair the damage of climate change and nature pared back by man.
From when you park your car you spot the added glint of art and architecture. It starts with Japanese style outdoor paintings hanging under trees leading onto one of the earlier UK eco-art installations of cob, stone and glass. It is not long before you confront Chris Speyer’s first installation of haunting looking forms of massive clay carefully crafted to remind us that in this estate the soil rules. Further into the Capability Brown gardens you experience how he shapes clay to spin a story about the rewilding in this park and his roots in the Australian outback.
Marshall MRSS and Howe entertain us with bold, audacious conceptual environmental art that leaves you with an endless series of questions. They provide not just 3D art in this wild park, but portals to a different world - one not only conjured in their minds eye through their extraordinary creations fashioned from found and recycled materials, but fathomed around them by the custodians of the park on a mission to make the place bio-diverse, climate solving and ‘new chic’: Thoughtfully cause driven, a place where humans genuinely draw inspiration from their relationship with nature as previous power-names such as Lancelot Capability Brown, James Boswell and Robert Adam did before.
Porter and McCluskey provide a final slate of artistic poetry in this climate panacea - reflecting its two extremes. One centred on land art and the other on digital. Both bring the physical into the digital and both entertain us with their messages inspired by this place but way beyond this secret corner. A corner more of us should consider and learn from.
Where else might a historic building carry a green roof and glass ceilings? Where else takes a hidden, overrun Capability Brown garden and painstakingly restores it as a national rewilding masterpiece? Where else achieves conservation goal after conservation goal in a small 100 acre park? It is a vital oasis that is now breeding rare trees and plants festooned with protected animals, insects and birds and an open-air art collection to trumpet the climate challenge.
Where else can stop The Letts Journal in its tracks with a day away from addressing the challenges and grand lies that surround us with its heart stopping, hard talking tongue in cheek commentary on politics, business and life? Where else offers such hope in our bleak surround-sound? Where else could we escape to this summer? Perhaps this place.
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