by Claire Hunte — The Simple Edit

Rising Form VI by Dominic Welch framed by Newport House

I have recently been to the Out of Nature Sculpture Exhibit at Newport House in Almeley on the Herefordshire/Wales border, which extended its run until 29 October 2017.

I’m no connoisseur of art but I can certainly appreciate beauty in all its forms. What a delightful day it was, if you can get down there please do. It’s all for a good cause; the proceeds of the entry fee go to The Cart Shed charity along with the 20% commission on all pieces sold.

Although only 35 minutes away from Ludlow, the GPS decided it was worth seeing every dirt track between here and Almeley. Naturally, on the way back it was a couple of left-hand turns and two trunk roads (B4361 and B4362) and we were back in Ludlow.
 I finally arrive at the estate. It’s a beautiful warm day in October. I hand the smiling gentleman at the gate my £5 fee each and take a guide, which lists over 200 pieces to view and a map of the sculptures on display. How big is this place?

Tinos Figures 1 & 2 by Paul Vanstone

Lost then found

Thanks to the GPS I’ve lost an hour and I’ve only got roughly three hours before it closes. I walk gamely ahead.

I come first to Old Pub, where quite a few pieces are on display. I scan it quickly as I am anxious to see the rest of the grounds mindful of my time.

My eyes alight on a few pieces that are captivating: one, a bust made of wood reminds me of Groot from the film, Galaxy of the Guardians.

I venture outside and once in the natural elements, it becomes a game to see these pieces not only made out of natural materials but also as part of nature.

The estate is quite large and well tended and by the time I’ve walked around it, I can’t imagine these sculptures anywhere else, so well suited are they to the environs.

Walking Bulls (Triptych) by David Goff Eveleigh

Pieces to spark the imagination

As I enter the grounds of the garden, the works reveal themselves. I stumble upon a fox chasing chickens and just about spy the invisible cows (just a steel frame outline in a field), which from far away looks like a mirage. Children will get such a kick out of this if viewed as exploration and adventure. It’s like Alice in Wonderland.

There is the giant wooden sphere, sitting like a fallen conker under an ancient tree. Not to mention the hanging ‘Dream Boat’ series down by the lake by Helen Malia made out of willow, raffia, string, muslin and hessian all of which fire the imagination. Wind in the Willows anyone?

Long Boat / Cwch Hir by Helen Malia

Some of my favourite pieces were by Kevin Blockley whose fossil limestone pieces, one of which looked like a giant marble surfboard, were incredibly tactile. In fact, as I walked around one of the attendants took a moment to talk to me about the sculptures.

I found out that the Exhibition is an annual event and has been running for three years. In addition, we mentioned how touchable the Blockley piece was to which she responded that we were encouraged to touch the pieces, just to pay care not to damage any.

Detail of Ritual Object I by Kevin Blockley

Finding shelter

She was so informative, I almost wished they ran tours to give you a bit of provenance about the pieces, the history of the house and the grounds. I wended my way around the estate and found far too many pieces that thrilled me to bits.

I loved the exhibit that was made of individual birch logs slotted together in the shape of a rounded shelter. The sculpture looked like a tremendous amount of hard work. (I met the artist on the day, who I think, may have preferred little in the way of social interaction with the public particularly after I commented on how lovely his piece was.)

I realised lovely was a bit inadequate but I couldn’t summon up anything more descriptive on the fly. Coming face to face with the artist was unexpected. I mean you just knew he must have poured his heart and soul into the piece you were standing before.

You didn’t have to be an art critic to see that. It looked both mathematical and warm and precise and homely. Contradictory. I know. Yet all I could sum up when I met him was a very loud, “it’s lovely.” He plainly forgave me in the end because he asked if I had climbed into the shelter yet. When I did venture in, I looked through the hole in the top and it felt like a place I would want for shelter if I lived in the woods…if he could ensure it was sealed for warmth.

Ephemeral Peat Boar by Sally Matthews

The boars

I managed to amble our way around without lingering too long and covered the whole grounds. I want another go around for a more in-depth look.

On our last leg we went by a boar constructed out of peat — it was so real and I wanted to take it home. The list of things we would love to buy was long, by the way.

I had just enough time to swing by the pop-up café where I gobbled delicious soup, cake and tea and was fortified enough to take a gander around the greenhouse and walled garden and gape at the lovely pieces housed there too.

I don’t feel qualified to describe them all. The images above will have to do. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next show in 2018. That seems sadly far away, but if another opportunity arises before then to find myself at Newport House — I hear they do Yoga — I won’t hesitate.