28 May, 2009

A strange sculpted landscape

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Bonnington House, Edinburgh

The rich have had a bad press lately, so all praise to Robert and Nicky Wilson who – having done rather nicely from the family homeopathic business and moved into a 17th-century mansion house outside Edinburgh – have behaved in the manner of the best Victorian philanthropists and turned their estate into a sculpture park. Rather than buy extant pieces, they have spent the last few years commissioning work inspired by the landscape. The result is nothing short of spectacular.

If you were impressed by Charles Jencks’s Landform in front of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, just wait till you see what he has done here. Covering at least three times the area, his Life Mounds is a series of grassy hills around a set of curving pools of water. The myriad paths compel you to climb the slopes and survey the scene, looking down on what I take to be an Andy Goldsworthy arch of pebbles (uncredited).

Goldsworthy has been active in the nearby wood, loading great boulders into every set of tree trunks clustered close enough to support them. It creates an odd inverted landscape, the materials natural yet, in their application, alien. The rocks were left over from the artist’s equally unsettling stone house, constructed around a rocky floor as if untamed nature is bursting into the human world.

The civilising instinct is represented in three pieces by the late Ian Hamilton Finlay, including a neat temple of Apollo in Portland stone and a bust of Sappho. Turn another corner of the woodland path and you’ll find Firmament, a large-scale skeletal figure by Anthony Gormley, not far from Suck, a caged vortex of seemingly infinite depth by Anish Kapoor. There is much more besides, and commissions to come from Nathan Coley and Jim Lambie, making Jupiter Artland essential viewing.

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