Mar 06, 2024

Take a walk through Newbury’s summer sculpture park

Altered States: open-air sculpture exhibition at Shaw House, Newbury until Sunday, September 24. Review by LIN WILKINSON

Altered States, the annual exhibition of outdoor sculpture in the grounds of Newbury’s Shaw House, has become a firm favourite in the calendar.

It’s good to see individual artists showing more than one piece of work, giving viewers an insight into the sculptors’ chosen genre, subject matter and stylistic approach.

There’s an honesty of ideas, construction and material in Colin Underhay’s rustic oak benches, which have their own organic aesthetic. Wood and grain speak for themselves. The back of his large bench combines curved and bent oak, the seat formed of two offset but symmetrically arranged lengths of wood. His small chair, with its softly triangular back, uses both sawn timber shapes and found wooden pegs.

Andy Hopper’s finely crafted work has an industrial feel, Interstellar a formal stainless-steel column, with ‘pillowed’ indents and gleaming reflective surface. Alex and Emma Devereux’s Tri Squid is a constructed off-set gantry bearing a gas lamp. Unlit, and in this parkland context, it struggles for aesthetic meaning.

Jonty Hurwitz’s Singularity in Bronze demonstrates control of both ideas and making, low opaque curves half-enclosing a gleaming, vertical, reflective cylinder. His clever optical Rejuvenation in Bronze comprises a line of six profiled heads, four of them hollow. When the viewer peers at them through a round spy-glass, the heads appear to coalese and form one solid, frontal-view face.

Show curator Jim Crockatt shows three oak constructions. Thrust is a very pleasing formal work, incorporating four steeply vertical triangles. Multi-media artist Gavin Wilkinson shows a cluster of six inter-related sculptures concerned with balance and renewal, constructed and re-purposed with unusual combinations of material.

Deborah Frith’s Women’s Work is a witty steel construction. A brushed-steel base formed from oversized domestic containers supports a female form made from overlapping coloured steel panels ‘corseted’ together with twine. It reflects an archetypal, patriarchal view of women.

Gilbert Whyman shows three well-crafted, bronze-resin female forms, the most detailed of which, Girl in a Hat (and bikini), is the most pleasing. There’s a limit to how excited you can get seeing yet another naked female form projecting itself into space, and there are several here, some with ‘chromed’ or shiny coloured surfaces à la Jeff Koons. Of these, the shallow double-curve of the Brancusi-esque support in Mike Long’s The Water Girl has more contemporary aesthetic appeal than the clichéd figure it bears.

Stacy Beaumont shows three appealing and resolved works, formed from slate and glass. Rainbow Spirit features a triangle containing coloured glass; Sullis is studied with tiny glass roundels, and bears coloured linear motifs. Its clear glass reflects the green of the landscape in which it sits.

Ceramicist Diana Barraclough shows a trio of colourful segmented columns.

In Emma Elliott’s Elephantom (ii), marble ear-forms sit on a rusted steel base, negative space suggesting the elephant’s head and trunk.

Diccon Dadey always produces constructed-metal crowd-pleasers. Gorilla is formed of black-painted, welded found elements, including numbers and letters; Turtle uses coloured and burnished forms.

The show features a collection of nine cast works by Paul Harvey, who sadly died in June and to whom this year’s show is dedicated. All, including Raven, are instantly recognisable for their clean, faceted, minimalist forms. White Gannets enfolds stylised heads within the curve of wings. It’s a spare, pure, beautifully controlled and realised form, both coolly representational and semi- abstracted. His White Dove is a tiny, perfect object.

The show (free entry) is open seven days a week, between 11 and 4pm.