The exhibition House at Burghley Sculpture Garden was originally conceived to honour of the 500th anniversary of Burghley’s founder William Cecil’s birth in 1520. It is not without irony that our recent societal house arrest has been the cause of its delay! The 2021 exhibition now presents sculptures that explore the ‘house’ as architecture and the domesticity of the home. Alongside sculptures exhibiting architectural qualities or those directly related to Burghley House. Highlights include a giant snail whose shell take its geometry from Burghley’s octagonal towers, an origami house carved in stone, a giant steel archway, a skyscraper being sawn in half, an arc of 4 pyramids and the elephant in the room!
The exhibition’s closest inhabitant to Burghley is Pete Roger’s Cornus Cecilium whose shell has acquired the eight-sided geometry of one of Burghley’s octagonal towers. Its faceted planes of stainless steel capture and reflect light, whilst contrasting the russet rendering of mollusc flesh in mild steel. If this feat of architectural metamorphosis seems too far-fetched, just google the bagworm moth larvae: creator of spiralling architectonic delights.
Many of the sculptures in the show explore the physicality of a generic house through aspects of architecture. At the heart of Paul Cox’s architectonic contribution is satire. City Cuts has the flavour of confrontation; a political comment on austerity and the moneymen’s perceived contribution to budget cuts. At the same time, it hints at the dislocation of city life, how one may feel alone amongst the throng. This graphic sculpture is rich in meaning and direct in looks.
It is hard not to find Régis Chaperon’s carvings alluring. This sculptor makes dreams solid, an abode folded from paper stone in his Origami House; its roof even has a slight crease at its midpoint, as a paper version might. This transformation of the material’s natural properties allows Chaperon to upend expectations and twist perceptions, all the more commendable for the resistance of stone.
The next architectural exploration takes us into earthly foundations by implying a subterranean sculpture. Doug Clark’s Ozymandic Arch explores a key structural device of building: the arch. The sculpture’s elemental geometry enlivened by its slanted embedding in the ground; this subverts horizontals and verticals to create an architectonic offset. Ozymandic Arch has a pleasingly solid physicality and is of sufficient size that it requires the viewer to move around to see it all. Much in the same way we live architecture, but with the difference of not being from within.
The Prisoner of Pyrrhus by Jim Unsworth is, one might suggest, the elephant in the room! Within a billowing marquee an elephant is evidently in residence, its trunk parting the curtains and leading the way. There’s an element of the circus here, but also it is magical, whereby a giant animal is housed within a booth like tent. This sculpture is metal made flesh and fabric, all raised up by the sculpture’s painterly surfaces, further enlivened by its waxing.
Diane Maclean’s Equivalents tips its hat to one of the earliest and most extreme examples of architecture, which entombed deceased pharaohs. Her elemental architectonic sculpture is enriched by the light capturing abilities of large metallic planes. In this, Equivalents shares solar ambitions with the pyramids before their face stones were removed to build modern Cairo. The four conical elements comprising Equivalents delineate an arc. This curvilinear configuration makes the progression of spaces between the four cones as important as their mass in defining the overall sculpture.
Whilst the title of Ros Burgin’s Domus has Roman linguistic origins in human dwelling and abode, aesthetically it also shares a woven vision with an animal nest. Composed of an alluring entwining of bike tyres, inner and outer, it evokes metaphorical thoughts - a viper’s nest or a rubber band ball. Equally its black sheen and the arrangement of its insides evoke something of the sea, a hydra, or the unfurling of an anemone when the tide returns. Domus exudes rich associations that confound expectations and go beyond the merely domestic.
Architecture is a language often, but not exclusively, defined by orthogonal geometry and depends on the right angle. Fundamentally, dwellings are built from some kind of walls with openings and a roof of some kind, but there are a myriad of design solutions to this problem of shelter. These are reflected in the aesthetic, material and conceptual spread of the sculptures on display in the exhibition House, which we will hope you will enjoy whilst it offers a moment of escape from home!
ALL ARTISTS PARTICIPATING