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An Art Historian’s Review of Devon Sculpture Park

A secret discovered in the heart of Devon.

Art in the Devon Sculpture Park

Rosemary Cieri, Art Historian and Exhibition Curator

Arrived in this remote part of England – perhaps one of the most scenic I have seen- I proceeded to my assignment: A report on an exhibition of the latest art concerned with our most immediate problems: the destruction of our nature, our world, and our divine right to inhabit it.

This happened to be in the Devon Sculpture Park, 100 acres unknown to me, in perhaps the most beautiful part of Devon I have seen; with hills gently rolling down to the mouth of the River Exe and the open sea. A centre of rewilding, the new way to look after trees, plants, grasses and animals, who all live here in blissful harmony.

Image result for the thinker rodin

I discovered the impacting art of an artist, Philip Letts, English but known throughout the world (from New York to Beirut) for his groundbreaking art, progressive, but full of human history, of humanity faced with today’s problems. In a series of installations with paintings, sculpture, worked out with metal… we see animals alive and as skeletons, these last produced by man and industry’s impact on the natural world they need to survive.

Some of these installations shown here made me face problems until now partly ignored, but which made me think like Rodin’s “The Thinker” sitting and reflecting on our world. On leaving I saw similar types of sculptures scattered throughout the Devon Sculpture Park which, like me, were reflecting on our present dilemmas. Enhancement, vitality and energy stems from Philip Letts’ art, an art provocative, enlightening, as art should be and above all inspiring.

A Sculpture Park Tackling Climate Change

A Sculpture Park Tackling Climate Change

Devon Sculpture Park is on a mission. Not only is it developing one of the UK’s more ambitious sculpture parks, on a truly historic estate, but it is becoming a leading voice in tackling climate change.

Its permanent art collection is one of the UK’s larger collections of environmental art – sculpture, installation art and more. It includes a ground breaking 5 acre installation of 25 massive wood biodomes each housing hundreds of creatures while overwintering butterflies and bees, yielding sizable colonies of each.

This year the sculpture park has dedicated its outdoor and indoor galleries to exhibitions that challenge our thinking around man versus environment and community.

As if this was not enough the sculpture park sits on a hundred acre Rewilding Project. Six years in, this initiative has enabled nature to repair and renew the land, its wildlife and those of us lucky enough to wander through. The wildflower laden parkland with golden grasses shimmering in the sunlight remind us of bygone times. The ancient woodland glades and open scrubland foster vital biodiversity and protect wildlife, insect and birdlife. The Wilded verges are a simple demonstration of how any verge could be kept. This place is an eco-safari park right on our doorstep.

The Capability Brown gardens are one of the first historic gardens in the UK to be truly Wilded following a painstaking four year restoration. They showcase how we could make a difference in our own back yard no matter the size. The gardens lead the way on smaller scale, mass market, natural climate solutions.

The art challenges and provokes us while the Rewilding Project helps to educate us on how such natural climate solutions can save our planet – if we get behind them fast.

The education opportunities at Devon Sculpture Park are far-reaching. Children, parents, adults, researchers and activists all learn here – through the art, the gardens, the guided park tours and the events.

A day out at such a unique place not only helps support the wonderful estate and its content rich, highly topical art programme, but it allows us to get involved in solving our largest shared problem: saving the planet, its unique biodiversity and our very way of life.

Visit the Capability Brown gardens and main exhibitions Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Adults £12, children under 12 &£6.

Book a Group or School visit by contacting hello@devonsculpturepark.org. Volunteer at the park or simply start your climate journey by joining a two hour guided Wilding Tour – CLICK HERE.

Guided Art Tours at Devon Sculpture Park

Guided Art Tours at Devon Sculpture Park

At Devon Sculpture Park we pride ourselves in our guided art tours. We believe in interactive, human led art education.

The 2 hour tours take in not only the sizable private collection of environmental art, but also ‘Street art in the park’, conceptual sculpture and large scale installation art. The private collection in the Rewilded parkland can only be visited by joining a guided art tour.

Visit our famed installation of 25 wood biodomes across 5 acres of the parkland. Each is designed to house 200-300 creatures and overwinter butterflies and bees. Truly functional environmental art.

Observe art Wilded in one of the UK’s more established Rewilding projects. Nature, wildlife and art fuse into one massive 100 acre installation.

Following this you visit the main exhibitions in the Capability Brown gardens and The Sheds Project Space.

Last of all enjoy a complementary tea and cake at The Terraces in front of the Robert Adams Orangery.

The guided art tours are led by artists and are available Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning, 10am – 12pm. To book a Guided Art Tour – CLICK HERE.

‘Textures’ Inaugural Indoor Exhibition

Devon Sculpture Park’s new indoor exhibition space at The Sheds opened on Saturday 29th June with ‘Textures’, a mixed media show of resident artist Philip Letts latest works.

‘Textures’ is a layered combination of mixed media art that challenges us to reflect on ourselves, our environment and the issues that surround us.

Each piece is a theatrical, layered examination of modern challenges including climate change, urbanisation, commercialisation and waste. The art speaks for itself behaving as an emotional mirror for us to reflect on and in.

‘Textures’ is a series of resident artist Letts’ most recent works. The collection fuses sculpture with tones of rugged street art rubbing against metal, plastics, textile, bone and wood.

Each artwork behaves as a mini installation. Theatrical, performant, conceptual but always raw, challenging us to think about our impact on the environment and community surrounding us. Are we materialist and selfish? Or more open and caring. We can decide.

Philip Letts is a recognised international artist. He has been represented at most of the leading art fairs around the world and has had a number of solo exhibitions in major galleries in New York, London, Paris and Beirut. He is collected widely.

Philip is passionate about large, global projects that challenge convention and attempt to design groundbreaking solutions to social, environmental and market issues. He is also the founder of Devon Sculpture Park.

The Capability Brown gardens and main outdoor and indoor exhibitions are open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Adults £12, children (under 12) £6.

Capability Brown Gardens

Capability Brown Gardens

The Capability Brown gardens at Devon Sculpture Park are extraordinary. Capability Brown was commissioned over 250 years ago to design one of his only seascapes and probably his most intimate garden. Today it is one of the last remaining Capability Brown gardens in the South West.

Painstakingly restored, the gardens boast historic water gardens, rows of signature Capability Brown Cedar trees, a lake carved into Haldon Hill and an impressive series of connected beds that keep going twelve months of the year thanks to the unique design, aspect and micro-climate. The gardens are the first truly Wilded historic gardens showcasing natural climate solutions.

There are specific Autumn and Winter gardens, wild gardens, Romanesque courtyard and terrace wrap-around gardens plus a Tuscan style terraced kitchen garden.

We believe we have developed a nationally important collection of trees while fusing UK West country plants with Mediterranean species. We put nature first. Birds, bees, butterfly, moths and waterfowl abound. The gardens are surrounded by one of the UK’s leading Rewilding projects.

Come and see for yourself. The Capability Brown gardens and the outdoor and indoor exhibitions are open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Adults £12, children under 12 £6.

Art and Wellbeing

A standard definition for art is ‘art is emotion’. It should therefore be the case that art can and perhaps should affect our emotional wellbeing. Hopefully positively.

At Devon Sculpture Park we want to foster this link. We have double the motivation: firstly evidence supports that people de-stress in museums and galleries but also there is a sizeable movement around improving our wellbeing through ‘time in nature’. As a leading UK Rewilding Project we specialise in the wellbeing of land and wildlife. The reserve is mesmerising.

We are all about ‘art in nature’. Mamhead Park (South) was designed for it. The evidence is everywhere – with endless, mesmerising sea views framed so magically by Capability Brown, connected via a tunnel from the ice house all the way to the sea.

The Robert Adams Orangery has a dome that makes you giddy when you stare up at it. The Lake House reflects calmy off the Capability Brown lake. Rowing boats float among fish and birdlife.

Dozens of benches and chairs have been painstakingly positioned to promote sitting and relaxing; taking in the ‘art in nature’ while detoxing. After all, we have to live up to the inspiring engraving on one of our ancient pillars: ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ which translates to ‘I am in paradise’.

Join us. The Capability Brown gardens and inaugural ‘ART WILDED’ exhibition, are open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Adults £12, children under 12 £6.

WELLBEING WEDNESDAY

Every Wednesday we celebrate #WellbeingWednesday. We offer a free afternoon Wellbeing walk for sculpture park visitors, meeting at The Terraces at 2pm. The short guided walk is designed to help us renew and reconnect taking in the art, gardens, vistas and waterways.

Companies, charities and healthcare organisations can bring team members for a few hours out. If you’re a Wellbeing counsellor bring clients and run sessions outside or in our therapy rooms.

To arrange a Wellbeing visit contact hello@devonsculpturepark.org.

‘Art Wilded’ Exhibition

The inaugural outdoor exhibition in the Capability Brown gardens is ‘ART WILDED’ by resident artist Philip Letts. We are open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Adults £12, children under 12 £6.

We also host group visits and guided tours. Book a Guided Art Tour – CLICK HERE.

The exhibition is a series of contemporary sculpture installations blending conceptual and abstract themes that examine the clash between modern society, technology, environment and nature. The overarching theme is ‘Man versus nature’.

Resident artist, Philip Letts, has been shown in leading art fairs across the world and has had a number of solo exhibitions in New York, London and Paris. He is best known for his relentless push into new media from abstract photography to mixed media, digital art, sculpture, installation and performance art. He focuses on urban culture and its relentless pressure on community and the environment.

Philip helps us challenge our place in the continuum of nature. Nature and urbanization are too often at odds leading to the degradation of the environment. It is more important than ever to work together to deal with climate change and the destruction of our land, wildlife and biodiversity.

‘Art Wilded’ is the first annual outdoor exhibition in the Capability Brown gardens at Devon Sculpture Park.

Book a Guided Art TourCLICK HERE. To arrange a group tour (minimum 10 people) email us at hello@devonsculpturepark.org.