Wednesday, 27 June 2012

On Form 2012

The biennial exhibition of sculpture in stone at Asthall Manor is back, and is, as always, a delight.

Asthall, a couple of miles outside Burford in Oxfordshire, is a dreamy Cotswold village, with the manor house at its heart.  The gardens, redesigned in the late 1990s by the designers I & J Bannerman, responsible in part for the gardens at Highgrove, are in the blowsy Arts and Crafts manorial style which looks at its best in early summer: roses, peonies, geraniums, astrantias and foxgloves tumble out of beds restrained with clipped box hedging, but more contemporary notes are apparent in the sloping box parterre and the massy blocks of clipped yew which articulate the upper levels.

The planting is allowed to escape and self seed in the gravelled paths - mounds of limy-green Alchemilla mingle with lavenders and daisies, loosening the structure and giving the whole ensemble the feeling of relaxed informality which is essential to the success of this gardening style. 

The sculpture is displayed in the grounds of the house, in the Ballroom and the neighbouring church - the works in stone cover a huge range of styles and materials - there is a good mix of figurative and abstract work, and all are illustrated in the lovely catalogue which is included in the admission price.  The larger pieces, in the grounds, are well-suited to placing in landscapes, and the variety of settings that the manor garden offers allows for sculpture in secluded corners and more expansive meadows - the meadows will be at their most floral by the time the exhibition closes in mid-July.

If you have a chance to visit, On Form is a great opportunity to see a beautiful and rarely-open garden and some of the most exciting stone sculpture currently being made.  Don't forget your cheque-book!

Find out more about On Form here

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