If you wander to the outskirts of Horsmonden, a small Kentish village, you might stumble upon Marle Place, a privately owned house whose gardens are open to the public. The property belongs to a keen gardener and his artist wife, and each year hosts a sculpture show, exhibiting work by local artists at affordable prices.
The exhibition has been creatively curated, with thoughtful placement of the sculpture around the garden. Brass poppy seeds are placed in tall flower beds, almost camouflaged by the surrounding plant life, while gigantic, vibrant flowers emerge from various hedges and bushes around the garden.
In the pool, a metal seahorse sculpture sits half submerged by the water. It’s placement is playfully inviting with its silver reflection rippling around it. The bronze figure of a woman bent over her knees also complements an area of water in the garden, particularly in the fluidity of her hair cascading over her body.
The main lawn beneath the house is dominated by a large, low branched tree, beneath which sits a bronze sculpture of a young girl whispering to a butterfly. She sits cross-legged amongst the crocus bulbs that are sprouting from the ground around her. This seamless integration of art and nature makes the sculpture appear for a moment as though real, and only after several more glances across the lawn did one realise that the girl was a statue.
The array of works on offer mainly deal with themes of nature, or are figurative representations. One of the most striking of these was a work of two standing figures formed of rusted metal machine components, recalling the work of both Anthony Gormley and Eduardo Paolozzi. The figures face in opposite directions but are not entirely conceived in the round. As the machinery curves around to the figures’ backs it breaks off, leaving partial shells that suggest the figures are in fact halves of the same body, though the three-dimensionality of the building blocks, and the angle at which you approach the work, disguises this.
This sculpture show is by no means the only artistic venture that occurs at Marle Place. One of the out buildings acts as a permanent art gallery with changing exhibitions, again showcasing a cross-section of local talent. Art classes are also held in the grounds, teaching watercolour painting in the gardens that act as the students’ subjects. Stoneware, textiles and student art shows also take place during the year, with a genuine interest in displaying new and exciting design. The show exemplifies the aim of the owners to celebrate and support local artists, providing a forum for artistic appreciation within the surrounding community.
Images my own, and courtesy of: Fiona Grant, http://www.jesus.cam.ac.uk/college-life/art-sculpture/, and Google Images.