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.

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.

Open Air Permanent Collection

Devon Sculpture Park has a sizable permanent collection of individual sculptures and installations. Developed over many decades the Open Air collection is now open to visitors. Visit us and book a Guided Art Tour – CLICK HERE.

Sculptures in the rewilded parkland reflect the extraordinary contours of the land and endless seascapes.

The permanent collection includes the largest collection of resident artist Letts’ environmental artworks plus dozens of sculptures from other leading UK artists.

Open scrub and woodland house an eclectic mix of environmental installations and graffiti art.

The Capability Brown gardens above the 800 year old church house sculptures installed decades ago.

Nearly 100 artworks can be viewed across 50 acres of the sculpture park.

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

A Rewilding Centre

A Rewilding Centre

Devon Sculpture Park is surrounded by parkland and a recently established Wilding Project. Book a Wilding Tour – CLICK HERE.

Nearly 100 acres have been rewilded letting the land and nature return to their ancient, organic roots. Ploughing and fertiliser destroy the soil and damage our fragile environment – we do neither.

We nurture and support wildlife to manage the land with us. Ponies, Roe deer and small rare breed sheep top grass and keep invasive weed back. Alpacas lift lower canopy, protect new born lambs and eat thistle. Pigs manage scrub.

An extraordinary array of birds, bees and butterfly share our trees and hedgerow with field mice, bugs, hedge hogs and snakes.

Our lakes support a rich variety of fish, newt and dragonfly with duck and heron frequent visitors.

We believe the combination of sculpture park and rewilding project is unique. The wildlife and nature are a part of the overall installation, of our living art. Environmental, sustainable art is the future. Environmental issues are vital for artists to attack.

An Outdoor Centre for the Arts

Devon Sculpture Park is a new kind of outdoor art centre. We are not just one of the UK’s larger sculpture parks by acreage, we have the ambition to be a broader centre for the arts.

We were established by resident artist, Philip Letts, to support sculpture, visual arts both indoor and outdoor plus design, film, theatre, books, music, cooking and innovation.

At the bottom of the Capability Brown gardens is a sizable natural amphitheatre where we plan to host theatre, music and performance art – overlooking the sea.

We are a platform for artists to show how uniquely they can challenge our thinking, how effectively they enable us to see things differently. If you would like to talk to us about putting on an event just email hello@devonsculpturepark.org. We would love to hear from you.

Visiting Devon Sculpture Park

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

We also host group visits and guided art tours across the entire park. Book an art tour – CLICK HERE.

At opening over 100 sculptures and artworks will be in place across 40 acres of the park and gardens.

Getting here

Mamhead Park (South) is just above Mamhead and Ashcombe, a few miles South of Exeter. From the A380 exit at Great Haldon Hill coming from Exeter, or Mamhead coming North from Newton Abbott.

Follow the lane signed Mamhead & Dawlish for 3/4 mile and take the first right turn to Ashcombe & Dawlish. Continue straight on this lane for 1 mile. At the bottom of the hill turn left at the junction to Mamhead Village Hall. The entrance to Devon Sculpture Park is on the left after 300 yds.

Whichever way you come you can only enter the sculpture park from the Southern entrance to Mamhead Park.

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