Garden Design

Henry Moore Sculpture

Art In The Garden

The design and build of a garden is much like that of a house: the main construction is crucial but the fun stuff is what comes at the end. In a house that means choosing bathroom and kitchen furniture, paint colours and fabrics while in a garden it will be planting borders and sourcing water features, patio furniture and sculpture.

Not everyone owns a piece of sculpture but most gardeners will have a favourite pot they always stand in pride of place or some quirky item bought from a garden centre that caught their eye. These items may not strictly be classified as 'art' but they can be used in the same way: to provide a focal point.

The success of using art in the garden is choosing the right piece for the right location. In a new garden, space for art can be included at the design stage while for an existing garden thought would need to be given to finding the right spot. That 'perfect spot' needs to be chosen carefully and is dependent on the piece itself. Acting as it does, as a focal point, art should be used sparingly: too many pieces and the eye will jump around the space which can be unsettling to the viewer.

Henry Moore Sculpture - Double OvalUsing art as a focal point is a wonderful way to solve different design issues: placed at the end of a path the visitor will be encouraged to explore the garden further; a bold piece will draw the eye away from an ugly view; a large piece placed in the distance will appear to advance towards the viewer seemingly shortening the garden.

It is always worthwhile visiting exhibitions, sculpture parks and other gardens to see how pieces work in the landscape.

During the 2007/2008 Henry Moore exhibition at Kew Gardens the positioning of Double Oval in a large open area illustrates the possibility of giving the viewer the ability to see art from all aspects. Walking around this piece reveals how the views and relationship between the two forms change.

Henry Moore Sculpture - Oval with PointsOval with Points was positioned with the main view through the central space being aligned with the avenue of trees in Syon Vista. Although these pieces are far too large for any normal private garden the principles of location remain the same. In contrast many items chosen for gardens are really too small, either because from a distance they disappear into the background, or they are not solid enough to be seen against plant stems.

Two things will determine the choice of art: the owner's personal taste and the style of the garden. Classical urns look wonderful in a formal garden, a stainless steel column is great for a modern garden and a simple sundial will fit perfectly into a romantic garden. The type of material is also important with wood being perfect for natural, loose planting and metals providing a futuristic look for the contemporary design. Natural stone often fits well into both extremes of style and so the look of the piece itself becomes of greater importance.

Sculpture should make a statement about both the owner and the garden and needs to be shown off to its full potential whether that means being placed in the middle of a lawn or peeping out from foliage. How much of a statement is up to each individual but good art deserves to be seen and celebrated.

© Sharon Brown 7th February 2008

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