Set in a different mould

7th February 2003 at 00:00
Nestled deep in the Surrey countryside stands a unique sculpture garden created by Dutch visionary Hannah Peschar. Bernard Adams looks at some of the striking sculptures on show. Photographs by David Rose

Down in the remotest, leafiest lanes of Surrey, a mere 30 miles from London, you'll need a map to find a remarkable sculpture garden. It's near the village of Ockley and it contains almost 200 works in dozens of different materials, placed with delightful skill under trees, by ponds, on lawns, under bushes, beside paths in a beautiful nine-acre garden. This is the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Gallery. Who is she? A Dutch woman, once a journalist, but now an art dealer. For the garden is a commerical enterprise which can never be static - works are being sold and replaced with new, different sculptures all the time. She and her husband, the landscape designer Anthony Paul, bought the land, and the 15th century cottage in the middle of it, in 1977. Sixty years earlier the garden had been carefully planned and planted but had fallen into disrepair. The tall, blonde, elegant Ms Peschar says that she and Anthony Paul had to put in 'seven years of hard work' to get the place into reasonable condition. She had always been interested in contemporary art, so gradually she began to build up an exhibition of highly unconventional sculpture. 'Almost every day now I get photos of pieces from sculptors who would like their work to be featured in the garden. There will always be artists who will try to find new materials and new ways of doing things,' she says. As the number of exhibits has grown the landscape has been gently modified to show them to their best advantage. The garden now gets 4-5000 visitors a year - including hundreds of students. Groups use the garden to study CDT, art and design, history of art, photography, leisure and tourism and environmental studies. Some recent visits from schools have been highly profitable, as Hannah explains: "Pupils get enthused, tell their parents and sometimes they come to look - and then buy."

* School parties are welcome at the garden, which is open from May to October. Tel 01306 627269 Email hpeschar@easynet.co.uk Web www.hannahpescharsculpture.com

PIECES FROM THE EXHIBITION

CREAM HEAD

Patricia Volk

Stoneware, acrylic and wax

Patricia Volk worked in advertising before becoming a mature student and returning to her first love, art. Her early works focused on the torso before heads became her obsession. Her original faces were often tortured or anguished. But her style has now evolved and as you can see from the Cream Head, a calm, enigmatic quality now infuses her work. This sculpture is one of a collection of heads at the garden, all named by their colour.

SEER 1

Eileen Newell

Glazed stoneware

This visage of woe (inset left) is one of two Seers on display. Newell has gained early recognition in her career and last year, she was one of the artists featured in Ceramic Contemporaries 4 - an annual touring exhibition showcasing the latest talent. In her work she says she wants "To suggest the shared qualities which make up human existence; the physical characteristics, the history, culture and emotion linking us all. This is what I try to express in a quiet way through the ceramic sculptured heads that I produce."

SEEDHEADS

Neil Wilkin

Lead crystal and stainless steel

These silver stems (left) show both the sculptor's mastery of the intensely demanding craft of blowing glass and his artistic vision. The craftsman achieves the complex delicacy of the silver fronds; the artist 'sees' the environment of the garden and creates something simple, striking and appropriate. Seeming to sway above the water, Seedheads catch and reflect light. They are plainly artificial but their slender delicacy is such that t Ahey can live happily with the organic flora around them.

INDUSTRIAL LEGACY

Rick Kirby

Mild steel

This sculpture (inset left) has a shocking effect. Five or 6ft high, it lies rust-coloured and rusting among lush greenery. It has the beauty of a classical head, the poignancy of industrial detritus and a marvellous sense that, despites its sombre appearance, it is creating a new, subtle harmony between man and nature. Rick Kirby was educated at Somerset and Newport Colleges of Art. Hannah Peschar, the inspiration behind the sculpture park, is pictured (foreground)

TWISTING FEMALE TORSO

Robert Bryce Muir

Lead

This Royal College of Arts alumnus specialises in sculptures and drawings of the human body and this (bottom left) is one of a pair at the Hannah Peschar Gardens offering a curvaceous representation of the female form.

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