Art lovers can lose themselves in one of the county’s hidden gardening gems this summer as they search for stunning sculptures hidden on the terraced lawns and perfectly planted borders.
The annual exhibition of contemporary art at Godinton House & Gardens features pieces by artists from across Kent, writes Lesley Bellew.
There’s mixed media, glass and ceramic artwork for visitors to unearth in the manicured gardens near Ashford. The 12-acre plot includes a meadow trail, as well as formal gardens which feature the Walled Garden and Italian Garden, a rose garden and twin borders designed by architect Sir Reginald Blomfield.
There are plenty of benches dotted about so visitors can take a Sculpture in the Garden brochure and view the art at their leisure. All the sculptures, by more than 15 artists, are for sale.
The exhibition features new and returning artists including Godinton’s resident ceramic artist Jane Richardson who says she ‘has the garden and surrounding ancient parkland for her inspiration’.
Mother-of-three Jane said: “I live and work on the estate so my work is very much influenced by these glorious surroundings – I have Godinton to thank for inspiration on my doorstep!
“As a resident I’m often up early and watch the delights of the new day unfolding; I listen to the bird song and savour the perfume in the gardens.
“I took on Swinford Studio at Godinton in 2016, where I teach pottery, and every year I create a new piece or body of work for the exhibition. This year I am displaying delphiniums – they are King Charles’ favourites - as well poppy seed heads and nigella (love-in-the-mist). There are also some birdbaths to help wildlife.”
A new exhibitor at Godinton is artist Susie Bear who gave up her office job to become a mature art student at the University for the Creative Arts, in Canterbury.
The mum-of-two from Dartford, said painting was always her hobby but during the pandemic she realised she had to make a change – ‘it was a wake-up call to follow my dream to make art my career’.
Susie will be exhibiting two large sculptures. Murmuration is based on her memory of seeing starlings swirling in the air at Brighton.
She said: “It was one of those transcendent moments, I was completely mesmerised by this incredible formation of birds making shapes in the sky.
“In fact, most of my sculpture reflects experiences I have had, often an exploration into the juxtaposition of humans and nature. The second sculpture, Man v Nature developed when I was experimenting with origami.
“The paper installation was quite problematic to balance but I began to see how light was catching the angles and eventually developed the piece in light steel. It was my final project at university – it took six weeks to make and lots of sleepless nights!”
International graphic designer-turned sculptor James Daly has been exhibiting at Godinton House & Gardens for more than a decade.
The grandfather-of-four works with clay, creating human forms in his studio, near Maidstone, and he will be exhibiting five pieces including his unique signature black clay human forms all of which are unique.
James said: “Godinton is a hidden gem, definitely one of Kent’s best-kept secret gardens, so it is a real privilege to exhibit there. My wife Sara and I particularly like the Italian Garden with its classic styling, water feature and unusual, often fragrant, plants.”
Influenced by the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore, James says he finds sculpture ‘an incredibly tactile art form’.
He said: “The process of experimenting with glazes by saturating the clay before final firing can often reveal new and exciting colours and textures.
“I love to experiment, creating work from such a simple material as clay. I attended life classes for many years and I am driven to create ever larger pieces in clay. This pushes the limits of what can be constructed before the clay collapses!”
The Sculpture in the Garden event runs from Saturday, July 22 to August 13 from 1pm to 6pm and homemade traybake cakes, teas and coffee are available to purchase daily in the ticket office.
The House Tearoom is open Friday to Sunday during the Sculpture in the Gardens exhibition.
Booking online at godintonhouse.co.uk is recommended. Entry costs £8 adults, children free.