Monday, 27 July 2009

Frances Doherty - Life Cycle Sculpture Trail

Ventnor Botanic Gardens, IOW.

Two years ago at the Brighton Art Fair, Brighton artist Frances Doherty met a gallery owner from Ventnor in the Isle of Wight who thought her seedpod sculptures would be just right to show in the Botanic Gardens on the Island. Frances had always wanted to show her work in situ so jumped at the opportunity and spent the next six to eight months visiting the gardens, photographing and sketching the plants in order to come up with around twelve installations that could be placed in suitable spots among the planting.

As the gardens are on a channel island, they have favourable weather which means they almost never suffer from frost or snow, and so can grow all sorts of plants. They have Australian, South African, Japanese terraces with many of the plants that you would associate with these countries. That gave Frances plenty of scope for designing. Usually Frances concentrates on the seedpods of plants as she is fascinated by their forms, but as she was visiting the gardens throughout the seasons she decided to cover the whole life cycle of the plants from bud to seedpod, and this is where she got the title for the Trail.

Frances started building the sculptures at the end of summer 2008, and finished the last one just a week before set up at the gardens in June 2009! Frances can only build ceramics to a certain size because of kiln and physical limitations, so several of the installations are multiples to give impact, one of these installations “A Host of Fallen Angles” is actually twelve separate sculptures. Frances says 'There were the usual disasters along the way, glaze runs, pieces blowing up in the kiln (a whole weeks work gone) but most potters become philosophical about these problems and try to build them into the time frame. The biggest ‘problem’ came when I showed one of the larger pieces destined for the Island at my Open House in the festival and promptly sold it. I hadn’t expected such an expensive piece to sell so quickly in the current economic climate so was rather caught out. I managed to replace it, but only just!'

Frances' main concern over all the time she was building the sculpture trail was that the sculptures would ‘disappear’ once they were placed in the Gardens. Something that fills the kiln and looks enormous on the studio table, can somehow shrink once placed outdoors. However once they were placed in their allocated sites they looked better than Frances had imagined, and the sun made the glazes glow. The Trail opened on midsummer's eve with a bit of a fanfare and lots of people from Brighton who had seen advertisements for the Trail during the festival also made it along to the opening. So far the reaction to the Trail has been amazing, and Frances is getting daily emails from people who have been to see it and are taking the trouble to write and tell her how much they have enjoyed it. As someone who works in isolation much of the time as many artists do, Frances finds this incredibly gratifying.

The sculpture trail will be running until September 13, 2009 and the Gardens are free to enter with access 24 hours, 7 days a week.

The trail is being run by The Old Studio Gallery in Ventnor and by the Friends of Ventnor Botanic Gardens, with funding support from the Finnis Scott Foundation.


Kellie Graham said...

Totally gorg sculptures!!

Anonymous said...

wow i love these