Saturday, 1 November 2003

Mopsas first sculpture trail

It's been months since my last blog and I can only blame a surfeit of work for that, but it hasn't just been all work and no play. To my delight, public art seems to be playing an ever increasing role in my professional life. Our recent visit to the Tyrebagger Sculpture Trail for a new client meant four hours of strolling through the Aberdeenshire heather and under the forest canopy in deliciously warm late summer to view the whole trail of twenty sculptures including the then about to be launched and fabulous new piece (Tyrebagger Circle) by Gavin Scobie. You enter a gap in the forest to see what might be an ancient wooden temple in a surprisingly gleaming new state, but with no apparent means of entry. As you circle around it, a narrowish slit enables you to squeeze into the high-sided cylinder to reveal a roofless room that has all the peace and calmness of a space intended for nothing less than contemplation. There are three magnificently raw, simple and substantial seat blocks which allow you to sit and look up into the forest, or down to the flickering shadows of leaves and branches. You are completely enclosed and simultaneously part of the whole forest. A magnificent experience.

Back at home, jealous of the Aberdonian dogwalkers daily arts-rich walking possibilities, I took Mopsa to Witley Court to see the Jerwood Sculpture Park - now moved to Ragley (unfortunately neither website does justice to the sculptures). A very different experience this time with just ten sculptures in a small woodland area - you can see the next piece pretty much as soon as you leave the previous one, unlike the journey of discovery approach at Tyrebagger. They have some of the biggest names on show: Lynn Chadwick, Anthony Gormley, Elizabeth Frink, and all the pieces are based on the human figure, so although some of the individual pieces were wonderful the overly thematic approach made the total experience rather boring - not enough of the unexpected or anticipation of discovery. I had to ask the staff in the visitor centre, who by the way loved Mopsa, for info on the sculptures. They gave me a leaflet that they kept behind the counter, with a scrappy photocopied A4 map of where the sculptures and other features of the site were located which they gave out only on request. You enter and exit the site through the visitor centre and on my way out I asked for a second leaflet on the sculptures to send to a colleague and the staff explained that they don't put them out on display as people just put them in the bin, but that as I was interested, yes of course I could have another copy. So unless you are committed to finding out about the sculptures or know they are there, there is no casual way of picking up the info, although you cannot miss the sculptures themselves as you walk to Witley Court. We sat outside - coats firmly zipped right up - and had a delicious cheese on toast at the tea room - before going back to the Court to watch the fountains whoosh spectacularly into action.

No comments: