The Park you see today is the artistic vision of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. His design for it was created around a series of viewpoints from which you could view the mansion (now a gallery) to best effect. These sightlines also work in reverse and have been used to display a wide range of works of art since Compton Verney’s inception.
Between 1993 and 2004, whilst the mansion was being turned into a state of the art gallery, the Park was used as a space to host artworks by a number of contemporary artists. Some of these works have been transitory but others such as Untitled Boulder by John Frankland and Drift by Laura Ellen Bacon remain for visitors to enjoy today.
We have ambitious plans over the coming five years to put more art into the Park whilst respecting its historic setting. To tie in with our Heritage Lottery Funded Project we will be commissioning contemporary artists to follow in Browns tradition to create new eye-catchers for the Park to draw the eye and visitors to his vistas whilst discovering different and sometimes un-discovered parts of the Park.
In autumn 2016 for ten evenings over a three-week period Compton Verney’s parkland, chapel and mansion house were illuminated in bright colours changed by the visitor. A specifically designed interactive computer and lighting system was situated in two view points in the grounds. People were able to interact with the lights to create their own spectrum which highlighted and explored Compton Verney’s Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown landscape in a playful and engaging way. The project was part of the tercentenary celebration for ‘Capability’ Brown and was intended to draw new audiences to our site and to also to expand our events outside of our traditional programme, and especially making use of the site in the evenings.
The project came about having recognised the increasing popularity of light shows and illuminations, particularly in museum and heritage sites. It was also important to engage with and utilise new technologies, and the artist we worked with, Creatmosphere, ensured his work was as ”progressive and environmentally friendly method as possible. Better light, less power”.
Warwickshire based artist Faye Claridge created an enigmatic new commission for the Park at Compton Verney which took on the striking form of a 5-meter high corn dolly entitled Kern Baby. This extraordinary sculpture was also the centrepiece for a new photographic commission by Claridge inspired by the work of historic Birmingham based photographer Sir Benjamin Stone.
Faye’s work explores identity, photography and history, often using archives to look at how personal and national identity are based on ideas of tradition, customs, folklore or past events. Kern Baby has been inspired by photographic work of nineteenth-century photographer Sir Benjamin Stone, who travelled throughout Britain recording unusual festivals and customs. Faye was drawn to his photograph that depicts a ‘Kern Baby’ from a festival called ‘The Harvest Home’ in Northumberland in 1901. This festival was about the local community celebrating the corn (wheat) harvest, using the last corn that was gathered to create a human shape, dressed in fine clothes and called the ‘Kern Baby’ or ‘Harvest Queen’. The image has prompted Faye’s Kern Baby, which was her biggest commission to date, and which she hoped would stand at Compton Verney as an exaggerated sculptural emblem of folklore, resonating with the extensive British Folk Art collection housed inside the gallery.
The second part of the commission was inspired by another of Stone’s photographs that show the children of Whalton Northumberland standing around the Baal fire (a bonfire that was lit in midsummer on St Johns Eve). This haunting image led Faye to create an extraordinary new photograph involving local school children from Hampton Lucy C of E Primary School and Welcombe Hills School. Using the Kern Baby at Compton Verney’s as a prop for the children to encircle. This new photograph was the centrepiece of a display inside the gallery.
Faye said, “Compton Verney is the ideal location to show Kern Baby, as her historic, agricultural and folk roots all have strong connections there. She will stand tall in the park, weathering gently through the seasons, and will hopefully make everyone who sees her think about impressions of the past and the relevance of tradition in our present and future global lives. Creating her has been a fascinating journey into archives, photography and craft and I’m looking forward to seeing visitors being drawn to her giant, uncanny form in the landscape. She is the largest example to date of my theatrically orchestrated way of producing photographs and I hope she confronts expectation about what work with archive or documentary photography can be. She is a great example of how disguised or ‘faceless’ figures raise awareness of our most common and unconscious form of interaction and judgement-making and make us question how we relate to others (in the past and present).”
We worked with leading landscape designer Dan Pearson to develop a large-scale landscape commission which responded to our Arts and Crafts exhibitions that summer. The commission consisted of a mown parterre (a formally patterned flower garden) based on the designs of William Morris, which was set within a newly created wildflower meadow in our ‘Capability’ Brown parkland.
Seen from the gallery’s windows and sculpture terrace, the meadow became a formal parterre, in contrast to the freedom of its wild flowers experienced at ground level. This commission articulated the close relationship between Arts and Crafts houses and their gardens or surroundings. It also draws us close to Morris’ deep appreciation for nature and native plants. Dan Pearson’s meadow at Compton Verney has likewise been designed with the future in mind, as it will continue to develop and diversify throughout the year and beyond.
All funds for the project were raised through a successful crowdfunding campaign via the Art Fund’s Art Happens site, the UKs only crowd-funding platform for the museum sector artfund.org/arthappens
This ground-breaking international exhibition compared the work of two giants of modern sculpture: Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin. It was the first exhibition to be devoted exclusively to these artists, with major works being displayed in our ‘Capability’ Brown landscape as well as in our exhibition spaces.
Eleven large scale works were placed in the Park to complement, challenge and create new perspectives to vistas ‘Capability’ Brown formed in the 1760s. Amongst these amazing pieces is one of Rodin’s most famous works, Monument to the Burghers of Calais (usually on display outside the Houses of Parliament),Moore’s magnificent monumental Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae and The Arch.
Artist Hilary Jack asked visitors to climb up inside her Empty Nest nest and get a birds-eye view of the park.
In the woods of Ice House Coppice, a giant bird’s nest was created in a 250-year-old cedar of Lebanon tree. Empty Nest, was an artwork by artist Hilary Jack, which nestled in the parkland beside the lake. The nest offered a place of hidden sanctuary and the unique opportunity to climb up and get a bird’s eye view of Compton Verney, the surrounding parkland, lake, flora and fauna.
Hilary quotes Ambroise Pare, Le Livre des Animaux et de L’intelligence de L’homme vol lll p 740 “…there is not a man who would be able to make a house better suited for himself and his children than these little animals…” Hilary invited all visitors to Compton Verney to climb up into the nest and see for themselves.
Empty Nest explored themes of the abandoned home, collecting and repair, which reflect Compton Verney’s history. The Grade I-listed Georgian mansion was restored into an art gallery for the 21st century and opened to the public in 2004 having been lost by the family through death duties, requisitioned during the war and then abandoned and in a state of disrepair for many years.
The work also considered folklore and the many countryside myths associated with rooks, in particular, the superstition that rooks desert the colonies they have sometimes inhabited for generations when an heir to a nearby estate dies childless.
Originally commissioned for Tatton Biennial of Contemporary Art 2012.
Thanks to Macclesfield Forest for their donation of greenwood.
During Laura’s four month residency at Compton Verney, she worked on two of her own commissions, as well as three pieces which she created with members of the public during drop-in workshops in the park. These hand-made, den-like sculptural forms can be traced to her childhood enthusiasm for building personal spaces in the garden, woods and fields
This residency responded to Compton Verney’s magnificent ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland and coincide with an exhibition about Brown and his landscapes designs for estates in the Midlands including Charlecote, Weston Park and Compton Verney.
Since graduating in 2001, Laura has undertaken a host of commissions and in 2010 was selected as a Jerwood Contemporary Maker. Her handmade, den-like sculptural forms can be traced to her childhood enthusiasm for building personal spaces in the garden, woods and fields. Her works are reminiscent of nests or cocoons often made from natural materials created on a human scale. Laura says:
Nests intrigue me because they utilise existing structures, such as trees or architectural features. Processes of accumulation also interest me, such as the creation of a bird’s nest or the build-up of driftwood on a riverbank. My use of materials is low-tech but intuitive, enjoying my chance to create work large enough to climb inside, or pass through in some way. I create most of my work on site, be it landscape, cityscape or for the interior setting.
My woven work today is often concerned with the making of ‘spaces’; of capturing the delight of crafting a small area to dwell, even just for a moment
Residency funded by Arts Council England.
Maria’s work took the form of a giant rocking horse that found its way out of the playroom and into the park at Compton Verney. On 23 July as part of the work Marcia Farquhar performed seated on the rocking horse on the West lawn discussing equine matters and the role of the horse in the English psyche.
Artist and musician Jem Finer played with reality. The work, known as Spiegelei, was a 360-degree camera obscura housed inside a stainless steel sphere on top of an off-the-shelf shed, which reflected distorted and inverted views of the surrounding landscape.
Visitors were invited into the work to experience a shift in reality, in which the familiar daylight was transformed into a purple haze, the world seemed to turn upside down and sounds are strangely muted.
Jem Finer says: “Gravity is, on reflection, absurd. It’s easy to take for granted but when one stops to consider it, we’re not standing upright at all, we’re all stuck on at angles to each other. We literally are standing as if glued to the surface of the earth, pointing down towards its centre.”
A founding member of rock band The Pogues, Jem Finer originally trained as a computer scientist and musician before establishing a highly respected art practice, in which he continues to push the boundaries of visual and sonic composition.
Spiegelei was originally commissioned for the 2010 Tatton Park Biennial
Kate Whiteford’s work brings together the history and geography of chosen sites which she encapsulates by drawing directly onto the landscape.
At Compton Verney, Whiteford made reference to the historical vistas created by ‘Capability’ Brown, the most eminent landscape architect of the eighteenth-century, combining the creation of his sight-lines with the notion of an airport runway.
In her work Whiteford developed an interest in the relationship between landscape and history and was inspired by Brown’s spatial understanding and ability to manipulate sightlines in order to create narratives. His vistas were constructed to be seen in succession rather than entirety, which led to Whiteford’s use of aerial reconnaissance in the development of the project. Airfield 2007 explores signs and markings invisible at ground level, but revealed from the air. Whiteford’s project, whilst mirroring the transformative powers of Brown’s vistas, alludes to a more contemporary experience of locality through the development of flight and aerial perspective. Aerial reconnaissance techniques are used by archaeologists of aerial bombardment, and Compton Verney’s wartime use as a requisitioned base for secret army camouflage research and crashed aircraft landing provided the inspiration for Airfield 2007, resulting in this multi layered fictional archaeological project.
Airfield was experienced from a variety of viewpoints both within the landscape and inside the gallery looking out. There was also a contextual exhibition on the development of this project, alongside a display of Whiteford’s earlier work and two site specific wall drawings.
Whiteford’s previous projects include Sitelines, Harewood; a land drawing at Harewood House, Yorkshire (2000), and Archaeological Shadows at Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute (2001). Her work is represented in collections including Tate, the British Council, the Arts Council of England, and the Scottish Museum of Modern Art.
A publication of her work, with essays by the writer and critic Richard Cork and Professor Colin Renfrew was published by Black Dog Publishing to coincide with the launch of Airfield 2007 at Compton Verney.
Compton Verney hosted the premier of Liz Rideal’s new film installation, shot at Niagara, Burleigh Falls and Big Cedar in Canada. The film, which was in three parts entitled Water Drape, Ice Steam, and Deer Portrait, projected onto the landscape at Compton Verney and focused attention on the mesmeric power of scenery.
Shot on Super 8, these silent films were a conscious meditation on the beauty of the natural world. They track the movement of water, snow packed firm on land, a lake, wheeling gulls, camouflaged deer, a double rainbow, and the snow laden branches of trees. The result was an enigmatic portrayal of a particularly distinctive terrain, which was projected onto the dramatic backdrop of a lake and trees at Compton Verney, illuminating the immediate landscape as it descended into dusk.
Fall, River, Snow enabled Compton Verney to extend its programme beyond the confines of the building. The park acted as a film screen for the projections whilst offering another context for the unfolding drama in Rideal’s films.
Rideal’s work revolves around issues of repetition, scale, motion and colour. In the 1980s she explored ideas related to the photo booth and investigated ways of using the photographic strip as a piece within a larger image. In the late 1990s Rideal produced Cascades, where she juxtaposed photographic stills of drapery caught in motion, creating the illusion of waterfalls. This idea of making stills resembling movement has evolved and now the film reel itself dictates the image and the pace of viewing, as seen in Fall, River, Snow.
Rideal’s recent projects include Kerfuffle, which was shown on the outside of BBC Broadcasting House (2004), and Light Column, for a permanent stairwell installation at the Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham (2005). This year solo exhibitions of her work were held in New York and Philadelphia, USA.
What does outer space look like? Should we join the euro zone? Are men and women equal? What are the big questions facing us today?
Artist Bob and Roberta Smith brought the ‘Mobile Reality Creator’ to the grounds of Compton Verney in September 2003. The artist customised a Piaggio van into a mobile absurdist wardrobe. Women were invited to re-invent historical characters such as Henry V, Bomber Harris and Max Ernst, while men stood on the sidelines for a change.
In bringing together a cast of unrelated characters, the Mobile Reality Creator celebrated the subversive imagination of the surrealists and the anarchy of Monty Python.
Keith Wilson’s Cattle Market was a series of temporary sculptures created for the park at Compton Verney. Inspired by agricultural cattle pens, auction rings and handling gates, the metal sculptures also hinted at urban structures such as playground equipment and stadium seating. By positioning them within an 18th-century classical landscape, the artist provoked questions about Englishness, structure and function, public space, and the decline of the rural economy.
Cattle Market was supported by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Art for Architecture Award and the Royal College of Art.
Compton Verney’s 2003 programme was generously supported by the Peter Moores Foundation.
‘Plane Landing’ had its world premiere at Compton Verney on 19-20 July 2003. Working in partnership with Cameron Balloons in Bristol, Aleksandra Mir created a giant inflatable plane (20 m by 15 m) that hovered above the grounds of Compton Verney as if about to land. A sculpture in the air, the helium-filled plane was conceived in the spirit of the early pioneers of ballooning and aviation. The artist also exhibited a body of work called ‘Aviation Archive’, including a library of books, technical drawings and memorabilia looking at aviation history.
Following the premiere at Compton Verney, the plane embarked on a global tour. For more information, see www.planelanding.info.
Plane Landing was supported by The Arts Council of England (Collaborative Arts: National Touring Programme).
Walkabout was a series of artists’ walks inspired by the local area.
Jacqueline Donachie’s A Walk for Greville Verney was the first, and celebrated the life of the last of the well-known Warwickshire family to live at Compton Verney. The walk was led by a 20-strong Irish pipe band, actors from the Kineton Theatre group, and a team of horses and riders, each representing aspects of his life and passions.
Next came a concert to launch the release of a CD, circa’88: the culmination of an eight-month collaboration between artist Ben Sadler and a group of students from the music department of Kineton High School. The students created songs inspired by particular landmarks and meeting places in Kineton, reflecting their attitude and relationship to their surroundings.
Graham Parker’s Line and Length invited people to walk the Compton Verney estate. The walk was mapped by following the route of an 18-hole golf course, complete with golf flags and tee markers. The artist worked with a professional golf course designer to re-model the land and provide a contemporary commentary on the ‘Capability’ Brown parkland. Visitors were able to explore new views and vistas and imagine the impact of a golf course upon the landscape.
The final walk in the series, conceived by artist Matthew Thompson, involved a re-staging of the American composer John Cage’s most influential score ‘4’ 33’’‘ (four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence). The artist worked with five members of the Radway bell-ringers to choreograph the performance. Thompson’s walk began from the top of Edge Hill, from where the walkers were summoned to St Peter’s Church, Radway by the ringing of the tenor bell.
The series ended with a talk and film-screening at Tysoe Village Hall, where artists Jacqueline Donachie, Patrick Keiller and Graeme Miller talked about past and present projects relating to walking and the changing urban and rural landscape. The talk was chaired by Andrea Philips.
The walks series received a Regional Arts Lottery Award.
Beauty Harmony Truth brought together a series of photographic observations about the life and landscape of Compton Verney by artist-in-residence, John Kippin. A series of three works were displayed on billboards at Leamington Spa station and outside Birmingham School of Music during 2002.
Today, prints of these images can be seen in the Old Servants Hall on days when this area is open to the public.
John Frankland’s project for Compton Verney involved setting a vast climbing boulder within the 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. The 70-tonne rock was quarried from Portland stone, and transported 150 miles from the Dorset coast to Warwickshire. Echoing the building material of the house, Untitled Boulder combines the fields of architecture, sculpture and climbing, exploring the conceptual and physical challenges between the disciplines. There are also strong references to the Land Art projects of the 1960s and 1970s.
During the summer, specialist climbers created a number of ‘routes’ over the boulder, with sessions open to visitors under supervision. Unfortunately, the boulder is now unsafe to climb
Tim Brennan’s ‘manoeuvres’ took the form of journeys and walks. Using the model of the historical guided tour, Brennan devised a series of walks in response to the transient state of Compton Verney. His Three Manoeuvres offered a rare opportunity to experience the derelict space of the mansion house before it was fully restored. The route included extracts from various literary sources which offered visitors an alternative reading of the house and parkland.
Compton Verney took the British Folk Art Collection on a tour around South Warwickshire as part of Museums and Galleries Month in May 2001. Paintings, artefacts and objects from the collection were displayed in five village halls over a series of weekends. Visitors had the chance to meet the artists Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane, who collect contemporary folk art, and to bring in their own handmade objects and artworks for photographing and documenting.
Marcus Coates is particularly interested in the relationship between animals and humans. CB3CV ChiffChaff was an attempt to search for parallels between the communications systems of wild birds and amateur radio enthusiasts. For his project he installed an amateur radio station at Compton Verney in order to call, contact and collect bird impersonations throughout the world. The calls were recorded and broadcast within the house and park.
Anya Gallaccio ‘Repens’ and Simon Patterson ‘Landskip’.
In July 2000, Anya Gallaccio and Simon Patterson were commissioned to make new work for the Park at Compton Verney
Anya Gallaccio uses organic materials such as flowers, fruit, ice, salt and grass to create ephemeral, changing works of art. With Repens she created a mown ‘carpet’ in the landscape, inspired by one of Robert Adam’s 18th-century ceiling designs for Compton Verney. With an army of 20 helpers, she transferred an interior pattern into the landscape, creating an ‘inside-out’ effect.
Simon Patterson’s installation Landskip was a response to the occupation of Compton Verney by soldiers during the Second World War for camouflage testing. He installed smoke-making devices in the park, and released ‘military smokes’, timed to emit plumes of coloured smoke that unfurled ribbons of green, blue, red, violet, yellow and white into the landscape.
The project was curated by Locus+