I love sculpture in gardens. It’s probably fair to say that I love sculpture, full stop. But is it my love of sculpture that makes me want to put it in my gardens, or is it something that sculpture brings to a garden that I particularly enjoy? In other words, “what’s the point?”
Two things have made me think about this question. The first is the creation of our own gardens at our studio in North Yorkshire. I spent five hours yesterday digging beds. Well, when I say digging, a lot of the time was spent extricating rocks from under the earth – and much of the remainder was spent by me recovering and pondering whether I could creatively turn that ever increasing pile of rocks into a sculptural homage to Andy Goldsworthy.
The second was a visit earlier this week to the gardens of Newby Hall near Ripon in North Yorkshire. As well as the usual array of carved stone busts displayed on plinths there was an exhibition by artist Reece Ingram with his work displayed throughout the gardens. Also on display were sculptures in stone and steel by Zimbabwean artists, brought together by Matombo.
So what is the answer to the question? Well, in short, sculpture adds to the beauty of the garden. In the same way as a piece of art above the fireplace enhances your sitting room, so a well placed garden sculpture adds to your garden. Multiple sculptures can be used to frame views. Single monolithic sculptures can be used as focal points, or as points of interest designed to entice the visitor into different areas of the garden.
But think carefully about which sculpture you choose and where you place it. In a woodland setting, natural materials are usually best. However, if you are particularly daring, in those shady spots a reflecting material such as polished stainless steel may work well. And make sure that you think about the backdrop. If it is a kinetic sculpture that you love then placing it in a calm, reflective spot will probably be best where it is not competing with moving water or swaying trees for attention. If it is a single piece of sculpture to be admired then give it the space to be enjoyed. Imagine your garden as a gallery and let people stand back and consider your garden work of art.
Finally, as with all art, only buy sculpture because you love it. And if you love it, you will love your garden even more.
Nigel is an award winning garden designer with studios in London and North Yorkshire. As founder of Medlar & Cob he uses modern, intelligent design to create timeless British gardens rooted in tradition. Take a look at his blog here here - medlarandcob.com/m. You can follow Nigel on twitter @medlarandcob. Read more posts by Nigel.