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The annual sculpture exhibition at RHS Garden Rosemoor

Juno by Angela Farquharson
Juno by Angela Farquharson

Not many outdoor sculpture exhibitions take place in the winter months, which is a shame as the effects caused by the low winter sun and the changing landscape as leaves fall and frosts form, can be so atmospheric and really enhance the work.

RHS Garden Rosemoor has been hosting an annual sculpture exhibition for nearly two decades. It attracts thousands of visitors who come to the garden from November through to January to see more than 150 works of art, sited throughout its 65 acres of garden and woodland.

Work on the event takes most of the year for organiser, Carieann Moore, a North Devon artist who also exhibits her own work at the show.

What's important she says is to find work that reflects many different perspectives and tastes, so there is something to appeal to everyone.

The process begins in April when Carrieann starts her research. Most of the artists come from the West Country, but there are always those from further afield and every year sees new names joining some long standing regulars. As well as those who get in contact directly, Carrieann likes to visit sculpture parks and RHS shows across the country find new talent.

The actual siting of the works isn’t decided until they arrive on site at Rosemoor in late autumn, early winter and it’s a process that involves both Carrieann and the garden team.

Although they may have initial ideas of where the sculptures might go, final decisions can’t be made until ‘you actually see and touch’ the works, she says. Practical factors also affect the siting, it can be very difficult to manoeuvre some of the more sizeable pieces over and around existing garden features.

‘The artists have to put quite a bit of trust in us,’ says Carrieann. ‘If it’s a complex piece, they work with us to put it on site, but 90 per cent of the time it’s down to us.’

Great British Life: Arabian horse by Ben CoxArabian horse by Ben Cox

This year a team of five were needed to move Ben Cox’s Arabian Horse into position in the Stream Field. The result is certainly eye-catching. The sculpture is formed from old metal, tools and machinery which have been crafted into a beautiful, spirited horse, caught cantering across the meadow, close to one of Rosemoor’s landmark ancient trees.

‘Ben exhibited with us a few years ago, with a stag sculpture. He contacted me this year at the last minute with his horse and I immediately said yes – it is beautiful,’ says Carrieann.

Arabian Horse has already been getting a lot of attention on social media, as has another large work. Juno by Angela Farquharson, is situated in the Centre Circle, directly down from the entranceway to the garden. It’s a serene, yet powerful face, meeting visitors head-on as they look down through an avenue lined by immaculate hedges. Carrieann says they knew as soon as they sited the work that it was in the perfect position. ‘It looks absolutely stunning.’

Great British Life: Micro by Will Spankie Micro by Will Spankie

The works are for sale, and range from £25 up to £18,000, the idea being to have something for all budgets.

Having a sculpture exhibition during the winter months helps extend the period of selling for artists and it also creates a strong visual impact.

Carrieann says: ‘The scenery in the garden is changing week by week, so there is a constantly moving picture for the setting of the artwork. It’s quite enchanting, especially with the winter sun and the autumn colours.’

It’s not easy to name a favourite this year but Carrieann is drawn to a work by Bristol-based artist Lucianne Lassalle, The Three Miss Graces. Lucianne is inspired by the human form and ancient mythologies and this work ‘is just beautiful, in the way it’s styled, and in its colour.’

Great British Life: Three figures dancing by Michael LawrenceThree figures dancing by Michael Lawrence

She also loves the work by Simon Conolly, and the way he captures the character of his subjects. One in particular, Sharing a Secret, reminds her of when she sits down for a chat with a friend.

Every year, seeing the way both staff and visitors react to the artwork is always special, says Carrieann, some will make people laugh, others intrigue or challenge the viewer, and there are those that offer quiet meditation.

This year, some of the sculptures have been incorporated into Rosemoor’s Glow illuminations, so can be see in a totally different light,

The exhibition runs until January 31.


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