The Sculpture Exhibition at Sculpture by the Lakes Simon Gudgeon
1st April – 16th May 2021
A monumental, two ton, four metre high Polar Bear (named Boris!), floating on an iceberg in the middle of the water first greets the visitor to the ‘Form’ exhibition at Sculpture by the Lakes, near Dorchester. This spectacular, incongruous vision is the creation of wildlife sculptor, Adam Binder, and alongside the Canada geese, grebes and Muscovy ducks enjoying the Spring sunshine on the lakes, it raises awareness of all species under threat, whilst also highlighting climate change. Indeed, there are one hundred outdoor sculptures carefully placed around the park, visually enhancing their surroundings – many more indoor pieces are on display in the galleries, overall the work of over thirty of the UK’s top sculptors.
In 2007, the old fishing business at Pallington Lakes was purchased by Simon and Monique Gudgeon and Simon installed his original sculptures around the lakes for clients to see his work outdoors rather than leaving them in storage: “Large monumental sculptures do not work in a gallery. They are out of scale and out of context. The landscape can enhance the sculpture and the sculpture can enhance the landscape.” The Sculpture Park opened in 2011 and has been growing and evolving ever since, for Simon, with his keen interest in art, history and mythology, is constantly adding to and re-designing areas of the garden: “You buy art because you love it. The investment is in the quality of life and what it actually gives to you.”
Initially qualifying as solicitor, he did not pursue this career but instead became a financial advisor, a landscape gardener and even a house sitter. He then started painting and realised he wanted to be an artist, the key being: “Practise and practise and practise.” Initially thinking sculpture would be more difficult than painting, he immediately fell in love with it, and the first piece of his to be installed was Thoth, the Egyptian God of the Moon, often depicted with an ibis head. The body of this elegant piece reflects that abstracted curve of the bird and simulates the curve of the moon. Although he started off as a wildlife sculptor, he has now digressed into abstract, figurative and kinetic work: “One thing I really like about sculpture is its Form.”
I was lucky enough to visit this new exhibition on the warmest day of the year so far. Each piece has been sited with care, relating to its environment to create a combination of art and landscape. As I wandered through a lovely glade of white barked silver birch just coming into leaf, Mark Beattie’s bright red, painted steel sculpture Fracture II created a visual harmony of light and complementary colours against the bright green of the spring grass. Mark enjoys the idea of colour theory, believing that colours act as an emotional directive for the observer – so he creates abstract sculptures using various metals and colours, ranging in size from miniature to the monumental.
In contrast is the work of the sculptor, Ted Edley, who hails from Corfe Castle and is a regular on Quest TV ‘Salvage Hunters: The Restorers’. Known as the ‘Dorset Copperfish’, he works with copper, brass, steel and unusual found objects to create decorative, architectural sculptural work. His dramatic, mythical sea creature ‘Hello Handsome’ was unexpectedly lurking around a corner in the wild river landscape.
I also heard one visitor exclaim that she had visited purely to see Nick Bibby’s masterful life-size sculpture of the “Old Man of the Forest”- a Sumatron Orangutan called Dagu, a resident at Jersey Zoo. Nick’s sculptures are exquisitely observed and Orangutans are one of his all-time favourite animals: “powerful, yet gentle, with such a depth of wisdom in those eyes.”
Another piece which resonated with me was Charles Elliott’s ‘Horse’s Head’.
Displaying real energy and grace, it is intricately crafted from steel shapes and finished in galvanised zinc. The sunlight reflected from the lake glinted though the patterns of the metal, for Simon believes that placing the sculptures by water instils a sense of peace and tranquility – more and more important in our busy lives. Charles is a young sculptor devoted to his craft; indeed, he epitomises a quotation inscribed on one of the plaques embedded along the garden path: ‘Let the beauty of what you love be what you do’ (Rumi). With a keen interest in wildlife from a young age, Charles has already earned international recognition within the sculpture world, showcasing his wildlife sculptures at various prestigious events worldwide.
There is space here to only mention a few of the beautiful and unique works of art in this exhibition. “A sculpture on a superficial level must encapsulate beauty, it must uplift the spirit and enhance its surroundings. But on a deeper level it should resonate with the viewer, should have a subconscious appeal to their emotions. Whether those emotions are the same as the artist intended is not important – what is important is that the viewer connects with the art.” “Sculpture by the Lakes” enables the visitor to do just this – whilst also wandering around the lakes amidst stunning landscape and gardens, or sitting by the stream enjoying some of the delicious offerings from the Gallery café, where ingredients are sourced directly from the kitchen garden.
Although Simon and Monique’s dogs have their home in the gardens and Lunar their pale haired Spanish rescue dog (known as ‘The Spanish Terrorist’ because he is a “terrier at heart”) might be sighted enjoying the sunshine in a quiet corner, please note the exhibition has a “no children under 14 and no dogs” policy. The ‘Form’ exhibition runs until 16th May.