IMG_6620Whilst on holiday near St. Ives, Cornwall, recently I took the chance to visit the Tate Art Gallery – something of an ‘icon’ of the town – and the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture museum and garden. The Tate is an impressive building, but I found it a little disappointing, mainly because of it’s relatively small display areas. There are plans afoot to expand the place and that should help to further strengthen its impact.

The Hepworth Garden, by contrast was a rich, intense experience and one which, despite many visitors, I was able to enjoy on a beautiful summer’s day. The Tate website provides the following background information:

‘Barbara Hepworth first came to live in Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson and their young family at the outbreak of war in 1939. She lived and worked in Trewyn studios – now the Barbara Hepworth Museum – from 1949 until her death in 1975. Following her wish to establish her home and studio as a museum of her work, Trewyn Studio and much of the artist’s work remaining there was given to the nation and placed in the care of the Tate Gallery in 1980.

Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic’, wrote Barbara Hepworth. ‘Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space.’ When she first arrived at Trewyn Studio, Hepworth was still largely preoccupied with stone and wood carving, but during the 1950s she increasingly made sculpture in bronze as well. This led her to create works on a more monumental scale, for which she used the garden as a viewing area. The bronzes now in the garden are seen in the environment for which they were created, and most are in the positions in which the artist herself placed them. The garden itself was laid out by Barbara Hepworth with help from a friend, the composer Priaulx Rainier.’

I particularly liked the way sculpture and planting are treated as complementary, the masses, textures and forms of the plants being used to echo or contrast with those of the sculpture and vice versa. There is also an amazing sense of space in this relatively small garden, achieved by the winding, gently rising and falling  path which opens up views across the garden to the sculptures which, together with some impressive trees, bamboos and shrubs provide height which draws your eye away from the boundaries of the garden, themselves clothed in plants.

A classic design trick for smaller gardens this – using features with height inside the space to draw the eye inwards, coupled with a masking of the boundaries to convey uncertainty about where the garden begins and ends. I hope that you enjoy the photo montage I snapped on a sunny day in August.

Further information:

Tate St. Ives and Hepworth Sculpture garden website

Old School Gardener

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