From the Amazon to the Cotswolds
The story of a seed, a scientist, an artist & an exhibition. Many years ago my brother gave me a collection of seedpods.
He has had a life long passion for plants, collecting orchids and carnivorous plants from a very young age and is now Professor of Genetics at both the universities of Brasilia, Brazil and Georgia, USA. His academic interest drew him to study the peanut, a crop of global importance and as such it plays a very important nutritional role in the diets of China, Asia, Africa and the Americas. He has led a worldwide research project into the genetics of the wild peanut and his work was published in Nature Genetics earlier this year.
So, you can imagine, these were not ordinary seedpods, but wondrous ones, ones that had been carefully selected to amaze and at the same time educate us into the extraordinary world of plants and to help inspire a love of nature and the land into my children. But it was the Brazil nut that was in a way quite a shocking revelation to us all. A nut we all eat at Christmas but of which we were all totally unaware of how it grows and looks in its natural state.
Joining us for dinner shortly after the pods had arrived was our friend, the sculptor Anthony Turner and we showed them to him. He describes here how they both astonished and inspired him and continue to influence his work. Anthony explains:
‘This was all about the unexpected, I just didn’t expect the little Brazilian nuts to be tucked neatly into a circle, I assumed they came separately, but there was this big mother pod that contained and held them all so beautifully, neat and safe, a bit like a chocolate orange but far more interesting in the way the shape of one intrinsically determines the shape of its neighbour. I now have a collection of seedpods from all around the world that inspire my work. I start by drawing them and as I draw they take on a life of their own that I then transfer to my sculptures. I have also now planted lots of nut trees, walnuts, chestnuts, pecans and pine nuts and continue to be amazed by the structures and forms of nature’s seeds.’
I love Anthony’s work, especially the ones inspired by those weird and wonderful Brazilian seedpods. Working in stone, Anthony would like to think his work spreads the idea of sharing the abundance of nature more responsibly. They certainly do that for me and you can see his work this year exhibited at on form, held in the exquisite and bewitching gardens of Asthall Manor the home of Rosie Pearson, founder and creator of the exhibition, which runs this year from 12th June - 10th July. Rosie explains her inspiration for the show:
'It was about opening people to new ways of seeing, to be more open-minded…..when the madly tendrilled pumpkins by Anthony went up on my gateposts, there was a lot of shock - but actually it wasn’t shock, it was curiosity, soon transformed, in some cases, into delight. It is the idea that people do not have to be told how to respond to things, that they can come with an open mind and an open heart, and let their senses take them in unexpected directions.
I want to use this extraordinary place to nudge people just subtly outside their comfort zones. People sometimes come in saying they have only come to see the garden - they hate sculpture - but they leave all dreamy and blissed out, having gazed at and caressed the sculpture, and enjoyed the garden and the landscape all the more because of the way the sculpture lends focus to it. If the sculpture that we show slows people down, gives them space to feel their own feelings, and not to be intimidated by art, then that can only be good.’
That sense of engendered peace that on form does so well, with Anthony's sculptures at its heart, is so very much the experience of guests at Thyme. We have created a space in which to breathe, 'take Thyme' and enjoy the peace, the connection to the land beneath our feet. That Anthony's inspiration started here is something I treasure. I can’t encourage you enough to visit Asthall Manor during on form, stroll through the astonishing gardens, discover one of Anthony’s sculptures, seeds of inspiration.