Thursday, 7 October 2010

Beyond Limits, Sotheby's at Chatsworth House.

An Exhibition Review: Beyond Limits Sculpture Exhibition at Chatsworth House.

Every autumn, Chatsworth House gardens become the location for ‘Beyond Limits, Sotheby’s at Chatsworth: A Selling Exhibition.’ This year there were 24 sculptures dotted around the grounds, some by new sculptors, and some Sotheby’s favourites such as; Damien Hirst, Lynn Chadwick and Marc Quinn who have been previously exhibited.

Lynn Chadwick had an impressive collection of four separate sculptures this year. All metal pieces, there was one named ‘Ace of Diamonds III’ and three representative of women. My favourite two were; ‘High Wind IV’ and ‘Ace of Diamonds III’. ‘High Wind IV’ shows a woman caught in a high wind by her horizontal sweeping skirt and hair. However, she is armless. This creates a streamlined figure, which I find emphasises the strong breeze. The bent knees also add to this, as if struggling to find footing against the gale. Every sculpture in this exhibition has its own carefully selected location to compliment the sculpture’s characteristics. This metal, grey-coloured piece stands out among a backdrop green. The rotating ‘Ace of Diamonds III’ really benefits from being situated upon water as the reflections almost become part of the sculpture. ‘Stairs’ is situated across the Ring Pond from ‘High Wind IV’. Another feminine sculpture, this one is a set of three steps with one woman walking up, and the other walking down and crossing on the middle step. Again, armless figures but they have triangular prisms instead of a human head. Chadwick’s final piece is titled ‘Three Elektras’ these are three figures, armless, triangular prisms instead of heads and three legs, similar to a stool. The sculptures are made from a grey-green metal finish, but part of the head and the front of the torso is shinier, polished gold. The angular features and soft shaped gardens in the Rockery create juxtaposition for the sculptures to really become fore-figures and stand out.

'High Wind IV'

'Ace of Diamonds III'


'Three Elektras'

Thirteen out of the twenty four sculptures are human figures. Ju Ming had two sculptures, both bathing women named ‘Swimming’. I liked these figures; I found the poses they hold to be very life-like, one is lying down sunbathing and seems totally relaxed. They have prime position in the garden, just in between the Rockery and the Strid Pond. This immediately transports the sculptures to a tropical rainforest, two women in bathing suits, relaxing on rocks heated by the sun, and thinking about diving into the cool water below.



Manolo Valdes’ ‘Butterflies’ is of what is presumed to be a woman’s head, with hair made from, or a crown of jumbled butterflies. The stunning backdrop for this piece is the back of Chatsworth House. Although large and made from metal, the escaping butterflies give a slightly fragile and delicate appearance to the entire sculpture. The butterflies twisting in all directions catch the sunlight and provide lovely bright reflections.



‘Contemporary Terracotta Warriors’ is a group of identical sculptures by Yue Minjun, inspiration taken straight from the famous Terracotta Army which were found in pits near a burial ground in China’s Shaanxi province. The sculptures are in rows of four, stood on different levels of the Cascade allowing them to be viewed in its entirety as an installation or group. The expression is typical of Minjun’s work, an almost manic laughter; mouth wide open and eyes closed. However, they all have their hands covering their ears which turn the laughter into a cry or wail; this brings to attention the horrors of war.

'Contemporary Terracotta Warriors'

Another favourite is ‘Visitor’ by David Breuer-Weil. This is a large head of a man half immersed in the Strid Pond, this makes me think a huge man’s body is underneath the surface of the water, walking up to shore and about to come onto dry land. The Strid Pond is surrounded by a variety of plants and leaves, creating a jungle effect in my mind, a place where huge people and unusual animals could actually exist.


A peculiar sculpture I found is Johan Creten’s ‘Why Does Strange Fruit Always Look So Sweet?’ Situated in the Rockery this is a man covered in what seems to be the ‘strange fruit’ from head to knees. This has made me think that perhaps a man was enticed by the strange but sweet looking fruit but the man gets covered by the fruit almost entirely when he tries to take some. This reminds me of the story of Adam and Eve being tempted by the serpent to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The strange fruit is sweet looking because of the temptation surrounding it; however if someone takes it there will be a bad consequence.

'Why does Strange Fruit always look so Sweet?'

A regular at the Beyond Limits Exhibitions at Chatsworth House, Damien Hirst this year has produced ‘Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain’. This sculpture is the most religious. Saint Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, a missionary in India and he died by flaying and crucifixion. Flaying is being skinned alive, preferably with the skin staying in one complete piece, Bartholomew the Apostle died a martyr hence Hirst’s title of ‘Exquisite Pain’. However Hirst has introduced a modern twist compared to the religious images from hundreds of years ago; instead of holding a knife like Saint Bartholomew is often depicted, he is holding a large pair of scissors. Considering the theme of pain, this sculpture has been carefully placed in the Sensory Garden.

'Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain'

Near the Canal Pond, are two sculptures by Zadok Ben-David; ‘Leftover’ and ‘You Again’. They are two large copper coloured, 2-dimensional, Corten steel men. The men are incomplete silhouettes; they are made up of what appears to be tree branches. They seem lonely near the pond, two people contemplating life as they wander aimlessly around the calming water.

'You Again'

Marc Quinn is another artist who has been involved in past Beyond Limits Exhibition. In previous years I have seen his ‘Sphinx’ sculpture of supermodel Kate Moss. This year he is showing two sculptures as one piece called ‘The Engine of Evolution’. At first appearances they are two large, completely white flowers. But the title proves they are more than a botanical installation. Each flower holds similarities to male and female genitalia, giving meaning to the title ‘The Engine of Evolution’. 

'The Engine of Evolution'
'The Engine of Evolution'

As you walk from the Canal Pond towards to House, you come across ‘Eve’ by Richard Hudson. The name and twisting curves suggest a womanly shape to this metal sculpture. I particularly like the many reflections on the glossy finish and I find it a particularly good photographic subject.


Barry Flanagan has exhibited at Chatsworth House before, with and without the Sotheby’s Exhibition. His ‘Large Mirror Nijinski’ is two hares posing, dancing almost, opposite each other. Flanagan’s work often features hares. The hares are placed in the Cottage Garden, each surrounded by their own circular bed of flowers which become part of their circular base.

'Large Mirror Nijinski'

‘Hungry God’ by Suboph Gupta is a large collection of aluminium pots and pans housed inside one of the garden’s greenhouses. Once again I like the use of polished metal for the twisted and unreal reflections, and the use of these items bring to thought kitchen utensils and food, in particular excessive food waste as the sculpture is like a tidal wave of waste.

'Hungry God'

'Hungry God'

Contemporary architect and furniture designer Ron Arad produced ‘Rod Gomli’, situated in the Rose Garden, the placement makes the chair seem it belongs in a terrace in a sunnier clime. The chair is like a raindrop shape, or perhaps a leaf or a pod, the natural shapes the chair conjures up makes me think that this chair belongs outside rather than in a living room. The lines throughout the chair really exaggerate the curves and shape of the whole sculpture.

'Rod Gomli'

'Rod Gomli'

‘Cubo I’ by Arnaldo Pomodoro, next to the Canal Pond is a large cube balancing on one point which appears to have cracked the square base. Each side of the cube has mechanical or technology details. This to me suggests that the cube has landed, as if dropped onto the earth from space, for it to crack the ground like this. This is suggestive of the advances in technology being so accelerated in recent years they might as well have landed here from somewhere else.
'Cubo I'

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