Art to ‘restore the public spirit’

Posted by pt91 at Jun 09, 2014 11:55 AM |
In straitened times, power of sculpture to inspire is explored at outdoor exhibition free and open to the public

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 9 June 2014

  • World-class artists come together in Leicester for exhibition dedicated to Professor Sir Robert Burgess, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, who retires in September
  • 45 sculptures by 33 carefully selected, internationally-renowned artists on display in 16-acre award-winning garden
  • Contact to request images. All images credit to ‘Steve Russell Studios Ltd’

‘A public exhibition shouldn't be self-indulgent, it should be an effort to enrich people's lives. Sculpture has a way of energising people - and I want to bring that to Leicester’- Helaine Blumenfeld OBE

PHOTOCALL: 12.15pm on Saturday 14 June before Official launch of Sculpture Exhibition - The Wedgwood Room, Beaumont Hall, Harold Martin Botanic Garden, Stoughton Drive South, Leicester LE2 2NA.

Leicester’s Botanic Garden is to be transformed into an inspirational outdoor gallery for world-class artists dedicated to the visionary landscape of Professor Sir Robert Burgess, the man who created this international sculpture exhibition.

The exhibition will explore the relationship between art and education in the magnificent setting of the 16-acre Harold Martin Botanic Garden at the University of Leicester.

Co-curator Helaine Blumenfeld said: “The English essayist and playwright Joseph Addison wrote ‘what sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul.’ It is fitting that in this exhibition featuring world-class artists we celebrate the extraordinary contribution and commitment of Sir Robert Burgess to education and sculpture.”

Professor Burgess retires in September after 15 years’ service during which he has transformed the University of Leicester making it one of the leading institutions in the country, consistently ranked in the top 20 and winning many accolades – including Queen’s Anniversary Prizes and the title of University of the Year.

He said: “It has been a real pleasure to develop an international sculpture show at the University that has become a regular feature of the past 13 years.  The show brings the Gardens alive during the summer months and encourages a wide range of visitors to come into the University and the City.  Once again, the works on show are a diverse range that are of very high quality.  I am indebted to the support of guest curators, artists and members of the University staff for making it such a success.”

A total of 45 sculptures by 33 carefully selected, internationally-acclaimed artists will be on show from June 15 to October 26.

"We've chosen grand, monumental sculptures that will take people to an unreal place; a place where they can dream," says Helaine Blumenfeld OBE, who is co-curating the show with John Sydney Carter. "A public exhibition shouldn't be self-indulgent, it should be an effort to enrich people's lives. Sculpture has a way of energising people - and I want to bring that to Leicester."

"It's a world-class international show with work from Belgium, Germany, Italy, the US, the UK and Venezuela,” adds Sydney Carter, a celebrated metal-worker and Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

The spectacular works are highlighted by a stainless steel 'Asteroid' by HEX, Robin Bell's three-and-a-half-metre wide bronze eagle, Angela Connor's sensuous 'Rocking Lady', and an elevated melancholic bronze figure by Hanneke Beaumont. "These large sculptures provoke strong emotional reactions, and that's very exciting," Blumenfeld notes.

“This year’s exhibition is absolutely amazing – and it is homage to Leicester's outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Bob Burgess. I received an honorary doctorate from the University 13 years ago, and at that time, I suggested doing a small sculpture show," recalls Blumenfeld, whose work has been shown in over 70 exhibitions worldwide. "Bob loved the idea! And it is because of his vision that the exhibition has been so successful over the years since. That's why I wanted to co-curate this show in his honour.

“Art and education both have the power to nourish the human soul, to inspire people to make a spiritual connection with themselves and the world around them, to reach beyond the things that are binding within our society, to liberate. It was in this spirit that the first Sculpture in the Garden exhibition was launched in 2002, with a vision that sculpture should re-enter the everyday landscape of people, not only to be seen in museums and art galleries, but on the streets, in parks and in front of public buildings, to take its place as part of a restoration of the Public Spirit. Sculpture in the Garden’s enduring popularity shows how the academic and artistic worlds can work together to promote an interest and delight in the highest quality of sculpture.”

Sydney Carter said: “Those of us who have been privileged to be involved with this exhibition year after year have seen it develop from what was a very modest show in 2002 to a significant sculptural event attracting world-class sculptors. Sculpture in the Garden has become an eagerly anticipated summer event for visitors from all over the United Kingdom and beyond. The growth and success of this exhibition can be traced to the support of Sir Robert Burgess. It was his vision that brought together the sculptors, gardeners and everyone that helps make this exhibition a success, all of who believe that sculpture, in its many manifestations, has the power to engage – even on occasions to transform – the viewer by its presence. Sir Robert Burgess’s dedication has enabled his vision to become reality – a landscape filled with sculpture that raises awareness and appreciation of beauty, such that everyone visiting the gardens leaves feeling enriched.”

This year’s exhibition includes the work of new sculptors as well as those who have participated in previous years. The work of UK-based, as well international sculptors is featured – there is a return of sculptors from the Italian sculpture centre, Pietrasanta, which was celebrated in the 2003 show.

Studio Sem in Pietrasanta, Italy, is where, in the 1960s, came works by Henry Moore, Alicia Penalba, André Bloc and Georges Adam. Some internationally acclaimed artists to have emerged more recently from Studio Sem, whose works have been displayed at Leicester, include Barry Flanagan, Knut Steen, Maja van Hall and Ans Hey.

Art is expressed in the many nationalities of the artists through a mixture of figurative and abstract work and using a variety of materials – marble, stone, wood, steel, resin, bronze and cast iron.

The curators add: “Amid this diversity certain unifying principles remain – a commitment to artistic expression, craftsmanship and a desire to communicate though sculpture, a direct and fundamental physical experience and interpretation of the world around us.”

Located in Oadby, three miles southeast of Leicester city centre, the University’s diverse botanical garden has been used for scientific research and education since it was established in 1947. The unique 16-acre site houses an arboretum, herb garden, water garden, and a series of glasshouses.

  • 'The Visionary Landscape of Professor Sir Robert Burgess’ runs from June 15 to October 26. The visitor entrance is on Glebe Road, LE2 2LD. The garden is open seven days a week, 10am to 5pm. Entry is free, except on special event days. The paths are suitable for wheelchairs and there are disabled toilets.


Notes to editors:

The official launch and press preview of the sculpture exhibition will be held on Saturday June 14 from 1-3.30pm The Wedgwood Room, Beaumont Hall, Harold Martin Botanic Garden, Stoughton Drive South, Leicester LE2 2NA

Harold Martin Botanic Garden: The University of Leicester Harold Martin Botanic Garden was founded in 1921 with the assistance of the Leicester Literary & Philosophical Society, and has been on its present site in Oadby since 1947. It comprises the grounds of four houses: Beaumont, Southmeade, The Knoll and Hastings, which were built early in the 20th century and are now used as student residences. The four once-separate gardens have been merged into a single entity. Its 16 acres display an array of interesting features, including an arboretum, a herb garden, woodland and herbaceous borders, rock gardens, a water garden, the National Collections of Skimmia, Aubrieta, hardy Fuchsia and Lawson’s Cypress, and a series of glasshouses displaying temperate and tropical plants, alpines and succulents. There is also an associated arboretum.  The gardens, which are open to the public free of charge all year round, are the site of scientific research carried out by students and SEED (Support for Education in Environment and Development), the education programme of the University of Leicester Botanic Garden.

Helaine Blumenfeld

John Sydney Carter

This year’s artists:  Tom Allan; Carole Andrews; Salvatore Anselmo; Michael Dan Archer; Richard Baronio; Jay Battle; Hanneke Beaumont; Robin C.H. Bell; Helaine Blumenfeld; Jon Buck; Sydney Carter; Halima Cassell; Angela Conner; Stephen Duncan; Laurence Edwards; Ken Ford; Bill Forster; Maria Gamundi; Andrea Geile; Lorna Green; Miles Halpin; HEX; Margaret Lovell; Diane Maclean; Rebecca Newnham; Peter Newsome; Louise Plant; Guy Portelli; Peter Randall-Page; Shelley Robzen; Almuth Tebbenhoff; Richard Thornton; Peter Walker.

For interviews contact:

Stella Couloutbanis
Co Project Manager
Sculpture in the Garden 2014

SCULPTURE IN THE GARDEN, 2014               Alan Caine

Wet weather has turned the gardens into lush, green areas which become backgrounds  for this year’s captivating exhibition.  The drama created by a large number of monumental bronze and marble sculptures joins the voices of smaller works which carry with them more delicate marks. The variety of materials and styles offers a sense of grace and power which stem from the artists’ preoccupation with ideas, intimations and materials.  Its shapes and rhythms can, almost always, be read without complicated explanations.

The gardens make their own demands on artists and organisers. Placing sculptures requires discernment and artistry as well as ‘permission’ from plants and trees which have already cast a spell over various areas; and all this is only a fantasy without trucks and hoists and the people who can manage them. The mix, when it works, is like any fine performance: worthy of applause.


This pathway curves, among trees and open spaces, through to a rock garden.  It introduces the visitor to various contemporary approaches to sculpture and to some of the materials which are used.  The thoughts embodied in stone or bronze are often different from ideas in which modern materials are a basic key to the form and presence of the work.  Materials are part of the message.

Near the entrance to the gardens EXHALATION, by Peter Randall-Page, is a solid, almost egg-shaped, mass of granite.  Its surface has been chiselled to create small relief circles covering the entire surface and transforming a ‘rock’ into a mysterious, almost delicate presence. Halima Cassell’s bronze  MAKENDO rises as a curve, with an intricate decorative flow of pattern.  Traces of figure and plant seem to be embedded in its substance.

Andrea Geile’s LEVEL THE FIELD is a large ‘wheel’, upright, made of rusted steel.  A variety of leaf-like shapes of the same material are welded into a decorative pattern, allowing light through a charming but tough tracery. Nearby, a tall standing box framework of metal rods reveals suspended stones, half dipped in gold. A broken and partly gilded rock rests on the floor.  A tickle of enchantment and a teasing sense of mystery surround this work called THE SOUND THE UNIVERSE MAKES by Miles Halpin.

With a shock, Salvatore Anselmo’s massive, lifesize, TORSIONE emerges before us as a clearcut and bold presence. The dramatic impact of this huge Carrara marble figure is compelling.  Interplay between the sensuous power of marble and representation of human flesh gives poetry to its form. Shelley Robson’s DANCING IN THE CLOUDS (2) uses the same marble, offering an elegance of mass and a purity of form. Monumental, although not huge, the curl and fold of shapes with sharply honed edges suggest perfection.

Dan Michael Archer offers two structures. Each, initially, looks like a relatively small cubic chunk of stone.  The limestone 4 WINDS appears at a glance to be unfinished. The four openings on each side of a cube create a hall-like interior space suggesting the sort of mystery we find amidst ruins. The marble of SILVES seems more precious, with a sense of polish and fine tuning.  Only one tall, vertical ‘corridor’ connects front/back, inside/outside. A sense of silence prevails, with a hint of beauty and the peace of order.

Stephen Duncan’s COCOON 1 and COCOON 2 with their surfaces of bright copper leaf are some of the most dramatic works to be found.  Presented against green trees and a shadowy background, a leaf motif with a more-than-naked human presence, with its companion piece, where the figure is absent, are enticing and memorable.  Richard Thornton’s YELLOW CURVE is like a flow of visual music, with a tall, slim, upright stainless steel panel capped by a flow of curling circles in yellow metal. Bill Forster’s THE THREE GRACES, with delicate vertical fragments of wood, create a flickering upward movement as it stands in front of a small rose bush in bloom. Amidst rocks and plants in a garden, Carol Andrews’ GRANDIFLORA arises, appearing for a moment to be an exceptional plant.  In some lights, a convincing ‘imposter’ – but always a robust and amiable presence.  Her nearby, CRITICAL MASS, rising like a caterpillar or a wounded accordion, is strangely memorable.  Ken Ford’s bronze MEDBOURNE captures a mix of landscape and a sense of place. What appear for a moment to be abstract shapes turn into houses, trees, a church: poetry.

A slight detour to the right takes us to a lawn below the Herb Garden where Louise Plant’s SKP1 installation reveals two tall, stainless steel structures, like drawings in the air, which shine and interact as patterns as we move around them. Nearby are Halima Cassell’s two small upright concrete forms, EFFIGY and GRAVEN.  Like small totems carved with various patterns they suggest signs and symbols.


The Beaumont lawn contains some of the largest sculptures, often with a direct visual impact. This section of the exhibition is primarily ‘abstract’, and each piece captures us by virtue of its rhythm, structure and overall mass.  The voice of each sculpture is strong, We can read signs of mystery and familiarity, rhythm and monumentality, shock and delight.

ASTEROID, by Hex offers an enormous, commanding presence. Facets of stainless steel shine and alter with the light - and are not ‘of this world’.  Nearby, three huge stainless steel frames stand in  a row, and when we move, patterns of space alter as views of frame against frame change.  BEYOND is the title, and the sculptor is Diane Maclean.  Her WING stands at the opposite side of the lawn.  Made of galvanised steel, which has a raw surface, we encounter what seems to be a piece of industrial fencing with pipes screwed into what looks like a  bolted metal belt – to create a huge rhythmic wing, both graceful and raw.

Helaine Blumenfeld’s THE SPACE WITHIN offers three monumental bronze figures on circular plinths in the centre of the lawn.  They are surely figures, although we cannot actually find face or arm or hand.  Separately, they are intriguing and sensual presences, and together like a string trio, they create a complex and mysterious music; such sublime and earthly music! Nearby, Jay Battle’s solitary dark and rough bronze TWOFOLD stands three meters high as if it were some primitive stele charged with power.

STAINLESS STEEL CURVE, Richard Thornton’s shining column with eight curling loops, rhythmically rising to a circle at the top, brings the word ‘ecstatic’ to mind. Rebecca Newnham’s LAUNCH stands quietly: a curve whose lined surfaces suggest a stringed instrument.  Walking through and around reveals the hum of its presence.

The delight of birds in flight immediately strikes us as we focus on John Sydney Carter’s  BLACK SEABIRDS and WHITE SEABIRDS.  In each sculpture, movement shapes, wing shapes and the emergence of bird shapes –  are built into an intricate structure, with memorable grace and a sense of flight.

Between two hedges at the bottom of the lawn, a mysterious mark seems to glow against the shadowy trees. From close-up, Almuth Tebbenhoff’s TREFOIL is a slender painted steel structure with a portion painted in yellow, like a signal to the eye.


This space is about figurative work.  Many of us, when we recognise a seated or standing figure, a face, a bull, an eagle,  find some comfort in knowing – or seeming to know – what we are looking at.  Very quickly we seem to be ready to have an opinion, often based on the slightest crumbs of information. Here, we might be perplexed to find representations of various familiar figures spread across a lawn, surrounded by vast trees and by shrubs and very green grass, with perhaps more meanings than at first the eye presumes.

MELANCHOLIA II, by Hanneke Beaumont is a relatively large area dominated by a life-size beautifully modelled figure, clothed and seated at the top of three large metal steps. She gazes downwards at a table which holds an empty picture frame. The lyrical mood is melancholy, which delicately controls part of the garden.  By contrast, under a nearby tree stands Peter Walker’s SYMPHONY FOR THE BULL, made of steel and structured out of cubist shapes, which offers the pleasure of its rhythms – and of being a bull.

In the centre of the garden a stunningly ‘real’ eagle appears.  LANDING/LEAVING by Robin Bell has a broad wingspan of over three meters.  Bronze with detailed beak and feathers, it is fine sculpture and a commanding presence - not easily forgotten. Angela Conner’s ROCKING LADY is a surprise.  A well formed and outstretched horizontal figure, supported only in the centre allows for a gentle rocking motion.  Add to the mix, the flat surface where face and frontal view should be – and a sense of mystery hovers.

Two very different figures in contrasting materials stand nearby.  Salvatore Anselmo’s gentle and compelling VENUS, a torso without a head, emerging from a mass of marble, presents an homage to classical sources.  Laurence Edwards offers something entirely different in THE SETTLER, where bronze, treated to suggest a damaged antique image, creates a poignant figure, standing upright and naked, bearing objects hanging from pieces of rope.  The contrast could not be greater.  And, from a different world, an edge of ‘pop’ offers a brilliant jolt of colour in John Buck’s YOU AND ME.


Here, instead of open lawn, gardens have been laid out and carefully planted in a structured way.  The long, thin pond creates a strong atmosphere as it commands a space adjoining an arbour.  Even before installing the exhibition, there is much variety of decoration and vegetation to catch the eye. Sculptures with a strong outline are often effective.  The space also suits work which requires close-up viewing, allowing us to focus easily on delicate elements.

On the garden side of the path above the Lawn, a series of relatively small and varied sculptures can be found. Guy Portelli’s gracefully engineered ORCHID offers a metal stem with ordered curves capped by stylised blossoms, given coloured glass centers.  Andrea Geile’s PYLON DELIGHT presents a surreal mix of a pylon standing on a globe made from welded shapes of flowers. Peter Newsome, in ETUDE uses transparent glass curves, rising and crowned by triangles of decorated blue glass.  It stands on a dazzling floor and music comes to mind.

Within a formal garden, Tom Allan’s white marble sculptures, with clear outlines, stand. GOTHIC TREE ARCH seems on one side to be just that, but on the reverse side only tree shapes reign.  Like a small poem, it provokes pleasure. His HIGHLAND RIVER with  harp-like shapes, is visual music. A trunk of bark is decorated with bright leaf shapes in Lorna Green’s FALLING LEAVES. Margaret Lovell’s SIEME II presents two tall, vertical sculpted strips of treated bronze, which suggest a tension; even an electric charge.

A long narrow stretch of lawn on either side of the pond demands only certain sorts of sculpture to fit the space.   On one side, two thin totem-like assemblages, each 3 meters tall, stand precarious and as thin as Giacometti’s long figures. Questions arise:  What, How, Why? None of the odd bits which fit together are recognisable, but slowly the sheer fascination of these flights of spirit take over. The sculptor is Richard Baronio, and the titles are ASPIRATION and THINGS I MIGHT HAVE DONE. Across the pond, Maria Gamundi’s NINFEA, brings us an enchanting detailed image of a nude women floating amongst waterlilies.  Finely finished, this is a delicate romantic work which provides a memorable finale as we leave the arbour.

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