Sunday, 01 August 2021

Sculptors will add new dimension to gardens

Sculptors will add new dimension to gardens

A POPULAR sculpture show is returning to Greys Court tomorrow (Saturday).

Organised by the Oxford Sculptors Group in partnership with the National Trust, the exhibition is running for five weeks until Sunday, July 18 — with the final weekend forming part of this year’s Henley Arts Trail.

The work of 29 different artists will be on show, including pieces by sculptors from Shiplake, Wargrave, Sonning Common and Caversham.

After last year’s event had to be cancelled because of covid, this year’s exhibition will be the biggest to date, with 100 sculptures on show throughout the gardens and a further 63 indoors.

John Nicholls, from Caversham, is a retired urban planner who started volunteering at Greys Court after moving to the area from the East Midlands five years ago.

He said: “Soon afterwards I joined the Oxford Sculptors Group and was chatting to one of the local chaps, John Penrose, and we both agreed what a lovely place Greys Court would be for a show.

“And I said, ‘Well, I volunteer there, so I’ll have a word with somebody.’ And they were very happy with the idea.”

Mr Nicholls has been sculpting as a hobby for the past 15 years. By coincidence, his first introduction to the art form came through the National Trust.

“It was just a one-day stone-carving course that was advertised in the local National Trust newsletter,” he said. “So I went along and got bitten by a very major bug and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Mr Nicholls, who mainly works in limestone, added: “I enjoy how it combines artistic expression with the artisan task of shaping the stone — a bit of art, some geology, tools which have been unchanged for millennia and a lot of practice and elbow grease.

“I don’t have to earn my living doing this, so I can follow my nose artistically and if someone likes the result enough to buy it then it’s doubly rewarding.”

With more than 80 members, the Oxford Sculptors Group is home to both professional and amateur practitioners working in a wide range of media. Keith Appleby, from Sonning Common, is a wood-turner who also enjoys photography and printmaking.

He said: “My work involves exploring the textures and patterns found in the wood I am using and developing sculptural forms based on what I uncover.

“I like to explore and experiment with different techniques and am particularly interested in producing hollowed forms.

“I often incorporate brass rod into the sculptures I produce and create work which is influenced by the type, figuring and shape of the wood.”

Anne Marie Chiasson from Shiplake previously worked as a designer in the fashion industry.

She said: “I am delighted to be exhibiting five pieces from my first collection, Strength in Fragility.

“Over the last few years I’ve developed in a new direction, working in glass with mixed media — gold, stone, metals — to create contemporary vessels.

“I take inspiration from the delicate balance within our natural world — its strength, fragility and beauty — and the similarities of our own emotional consciousness.

“One of the many aspects of art that I love is that it can create an emotional connection with the viewer and I aspire to create that energy through my work.”

John Penrose, from Shiplake, discovered his aptitude for sculpture after retiring from a career in business and taking a number of courses in the discipline.

He said: “My main focus has been on figurative subjects, with a particular interest in the essence of birds and capturing dancers in movement.

“I have worked in bronze and marble resin and have issued several editions in foundry bronze.

“More recently I branched into stone carving and am now creating unique semi-abstract works in various types of stone where the beauty of the material is so effective.”

Martin Lorenz, from Wargrave, has been sculpting since the Seventies and now does so for a living.

He said: “I got chatting to Clive Duncan, a real sculptor from Shiplake, on a delayed train and got to thinking this might be quite a cool thing to do.

“After losing my job I plunged recklessly into full-time sculpture — just in time for the first of several recessions.

“Having left the rat race, I found myself in a small mouse race, eking out a living making replicas and small effigies for varied museum shops, including the British Museum, of Dickens, Nelson and Sherlock Holmes.”

Mr Lorenz, who is also known for his set designs for Wargrave Theatre Workshop productions, added: “I like to create life-size portraits and to make my figurines pleasing to the eye rather than warts and all.

“I work in clay which is then fired or cast in bronze professionally, depending on the depth of my client’s pockets.”

All the works included in the sculpture show are for sale, with prices ranging from under £100 up to £12,000.

A share of the proceeds from each sale goes to Greys Court and in the years since the event was first held in 2017 more than £10,000 has been raised.

Greys Court head gardener Tim Martin said: “Just when the wisteria and the spring bults are over and before the summer colours kick in, the sculpture exhibition brings a new element of life to the walled gardens.”

Mr Nicholls added: “This is our fourth show at Greys Court and we are sure it is the best yet. The range and quality of the exhibits is great.

“We’re delighted to be back in a covid-safe way at this lovely venue, which is just made for showing sculpture. It should be a great day out, whether or not you are interested in buying sculpture. Just come and enjoy.”

Entry to the show, which is open daily from 10am to 5pm, is included with admission to Greys Court.

Tickets must currently be booked in advance. For more information, visit

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