Before the bad weather arrived, we took advantage of a sunny day in Scotland to visit this Jacobean manor house set in 100 acres of estate. It was bought by Robert and Nicky Wilson in 1999 and has since been developed into a wonderful sculpture park. There are works by Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Andy Goldsworthy, among others, all set either on large grassy areas or in woodland.
Gormley’s work is called ‘Firmament’ and is constructed from 1019 steel balls welded with 1770 steel elements into a polygonal structure. Its form suggests both constellations of stars and also a huge creature grazing along the grass. Although the sculpture is relatively firm, the wind was blowing in such a way that what looked like the animal’s head was swaying gently back and forth.
‘Love Bomb’, by Marc Quinn, was the first installation we saw as we arrived at Jupiter. Twelve metres tall and resembling an exotic totem pole, it’s set on a small hill and can be seen from quite a distance.
Unfortunately, one of the children with us didn’t see the wire that was holding ‘Over here’ in place at the bottom and went flying over it, cutting her leg on the wire in the process.
We came across the five expressive ‘Weeping Girls’ by Laura Ford, all hiding in the woods.
The purple on the ground in these two photographs reminds me of another installation, ‘The Light pours out of me’, by Anya Gallaccio, which was an underground chamber whose walls were completely covered in amethyst.
There were many exhibits, nearly all of them interesting and attractive. If you want to see more you’ll find some illustrated on their website: http://www.jupiterartland.org
Before I go on to my favourite exhibit, I’ll just mention two aspects that were less attractive.
First the café was disappointing and clearly unprepared for the crowds that were that day enjoying the sunshine in this very lovely sculpture garden, though fortunately a peacock was able to appreciate the facilities. As we were sitting outside in the sun and out of the wind, we were plagued by wasps until we persuaded one of the staff to provide a jam jar trap.
The other disappointment was in Jupiter’s stated ambition to get every schoolchild in Scotland to visit free of charge. This may not have been intended to be exclusive, but it did appear to have more than a whiff of racism about it. Obviously, many schoolchildren in Northumberland live far nearer the park than those from further north in Scotland; and I can’t imagine an equivalent attraction in the north of England making entrance free for ‘English schoolchildren’. However, having browsed the Jupiter website, I think I’m satisfied that English schools would not be penalised; but while we are still one nation, I think it would be better to make it clear that the aim is to get as many children as possible to visit, regardless of where they live.
For me, the very best part of the whole lovely visit was the earth sculpture called ‘Life mounds’, by Charles Jencks, the artist who also created the rather smaller ‘Landform’ outside the Modern Art Gallery in Edinburgh some years ago. The one at Jupiter is extensive, with hills, paths and lakes, all of which can be explored. I found the experience of wandering around this installation inspired the same contemplative attitude as many labyrinths do, and I could have stayed there for hours, soaking up the peaceful atmosphere.