A visit to a wonderful sculpture exhibition near Cirencester.
Last Sunday we visited Fresh Air in the beautiful village of Quenington near Cirencester. Fresh Air is an outdoor exhibition of over 100 sculptures in the gardens of David and Lucy Abel Smith. They started these biennial exhibitions in 1992, and last year 14,000 people spent £5 to visit. The money raised is used to support the arts in a variety of ways. It is a big show in a fantastic setting, and I would urge you to go.
The variety of work you will find is exceptional. Metal, wood, ceramics, plastic, glass, every kind of material that can be manipulated by the imagination. This may be due to Lucy’s refreshing approach, which I wholeheartedly agree with. In the catalogue she writes “I do not recognise the split between art and craft…” This is one of my hobby horses. Every ceramic student coming out of college presents themselves as a “ceramic artist”. What earns the title of artist? I think most painters are not genuine artists, simply craftsmen with paint. A work of art should illuminate, shed new insight, say something that has not been said before, and that something should not simply be an attempt to shock. I actually don’t think anything should be allowed to be called art until 100 years have passed since its creation. Let later generations decide if it has passed the test of time.
So feeling much better for having had that little diatribe, let's get back to the sculptures. There was plenty on display that was not to my taste - in the end it is all very subjective, but here are a very few of my favourites.
"Profile" by Shaun Brosnan. Hand beaten lead.
Ceramic sculpture called Sin Eater by Meri Wells
"Enclosure" by Jeni Cairns
Close up of "Enclosure" showing the birds and foliage in the ironwork.
This old bridge and water wheel at the end of the garden caught my eye. These are two of the most beautiful things there, a testament to the unnamed craftsmen of times past, who made funtional things with such care. So much of what we have today is made to the cheapest cost, cannot be repaired and will be part of a land-fill site within a very short time. The ethos of today's artist-craftsmen goes some way to counter the throwaway culture that surrounds us. There are a few more pictures on our facebook page, but as I said above, if you can go it makes a great day out.