With the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show coming up later this month (23rd - 27th May), now is a great time to reflect on how we can enhance our all important outdoor spaces with thoughtfully curated sculpture.
Attended by more than 150,000 visitors each year, the prestigious garden show is known as the ‘pinnacle of horticultural excellence’, and each year delivers innovative and show-stopping designs - often incorporating art installations within their schemes.
Award winning sculptor Hamish Mackie regularly exhibits at the event, and his stand last year featured his sculpture Monumental Hares. Towering at over 3 meters in height the exhibit, which was installed on a stand designed and built by Bowles & Wyer, was a breathtaking sight to behold, and a wonderful example of the enriching impact that sculpture can have in a natural environment.
Green areas, from parks and woodland to country estates and formal gardens, all over the country are increasingly being enhanced by art installations and sculpture. So how can we make the most of our own outdoor spaces?
It’s important to consider how the piece will interact with the environment. Do you want to create a dramatic effect, embrace a contemporary aesthetic, or encourage a sense of serenity, and synchronicity with the environment.
Scale is an important consideration when contemplating the right piece for an outdoor space - a dramatic and imposing effect can be created with large scale pieces, whilst smaller pieces dotted throughout a walkway or rockery can create intrigue and even whimsy.
Philip Jackson and Geoff Jeal, for example, both create forceful works of art with exaggerations of scale: Geoff creates supersized depictions of small and delicate natural elements likes seeds and leaves which, despite their consierable size, sit harmoniously within a natural environment; whilst Philip sculpts imposing and theatrical figurative pieces, which draw your focus towards their powerful and alluring aesthetic. His piece It Raineth Even on the Just is mammoth in scale (at over 2 meters tall), yet has an elegant and ghostly quality which feels at once commanding yet serene.
If space is at a premium then smaller sculpture is perfectly capable of creating an awe-inspiring impression. For example, Adam Binder’s Sparrow in Birdcage is diminutive in scale, but its delicate beauty and perceptive detail is big on impact: just imagine walking through a pergola or gently draping canopy of branches, then chancing upon a beautifully formed sculptural artwork hanging elegantly between the leaves. Adam Binder’s Armadillo or Hamish Mackie’s Hare Running would also both work beautifully if placed in an overgrown area of wildflowers, ready to be discovered with delight as you wander through the space.
A good way of finding inspiration for embellishing your own outdoor space is to visit local gardens and attractions. Seeing how they display their chosen pieces can help you to understand what you would like to emulate - or avoid - in your own design, and get the creative juices flowing.
The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew is home to among the largest and most diverse living plant collections in the world, and they compliment these naturally occurring works of art with a range of historic and contemporary designs and sculptural installations.
In a distinctly traditional approach, the Queen’s Garden at Kew was designed with the architectural styles and plants of the 17th Century as the focal point, featuring box hedges and fragrant laburnum, alongside stone ornaments, and a copy of Verrocchio’s statue ‘Boy with a Dolphin’.
In a more modern approach, last year, eye-catching contemporary art installation ‘The Hive’ was added in the heart of Kew’s wildflower meadow. The human-scale emulation of a beehive featured a musical symphony performed in the key in which bees buzz, and 1000 LED lights each glowing in accordance with the vibrations of bees, and was created with the intent to honour the powerful pollinators and their role in sustaining all life on earth.
Renowned Dorset sculptor Simon Gudgeon also has one of his contemporary bronze sculptures ‘Leaf Spirit’ featured as a permanent piece in Kew Gardens. The large scale depiction of a face formed from an abundance of delicate leaves (formed from imprints of leaves found at his own sculpture park in Dorset) protrudes ethereally from a bank of trees and plants, and is said to have been created to “evoke a sense of calm”. You can find his collection, including Barn Owl in our portfolio of sculpture here.
Back to art installations in a domestic outdoor setting, and a well placed sculpture in a garden can also be used draw focus to an area of your plot which may otherwise be overlooked. Perhaps you have a dark wooded area, or spot in which it is hard to grow colourful planting? This sort of space is perfect in which to add an artistic element of beauty.
Heron by Sophie Louise White is a remarkable life size depiction of a Heron, created in a fluid and textural style. Its design captures the power and grace of its subject perfectly and would enhance any green space.
Check out our online gallery of outdoor installations for inspiration. There are plenty of sculpture to choose from, whether you are looking for traditional wildlife subjects like William Montgomery’s Single Grouse in Flight or Hamish Mackie’s Wild Boar, figurative pieces such as Philip Jackson’s Serenissima, or more abstract designs like Twofold by Jay Battle.