Saturday, 15 September 2007

Wandering in Wiltshire

Thursday lunchtime found us sitting on a bench eating pasties and gazing at the Wiltshire countryside. The view included, about a mile away, the A30, beyond which is a clearly marked DANGER area, where Her Majesty's armed forces practice blowing stuff up and is close to, if not part of, Salisbury Plain. The weather was glorious and I discovered later on that I looked as red as a beetroot having caught the sun and not used any suntan lotion.

Our goal was to get to Roche Court to see a sculpture exhibition of Anthony Caro's work that was due to end in a few days time. We'd got this far on our journey by first taking the bus from Salisbury. Then, not knowing the area, we stayed too long on the bus and found ourselves stranded in what might as well have been No Man's Land. We had in our possession an Ordnance Survey map, no 131 if you're interested, bought the day before specifically to avoid getting lost but initially it was no use since we couldn't find where we were on the map so couldn't get our bearings. The result was a rather longer walk than we had hoped. We were finally put on the right path by two nice ladies who were doing some gardening and after that we were able to enjoy the day. It turns out that had we had our own helicopter we could have landed it on the front garden at Roche Court if we'd given them advance warning of our arrival!

Straw soaked in disinfectant by the main gate reminded us that Foot and Mouth is back in the country and that Roche Court is a working farm as well as venue for art exhibitions. The main house appeared to be a Georgian building but visitors are not allowed in the house. Visitors are allowed to roam around the large expanse of garden where a lot of sculptures are displayed, in the walled kitchen garden where there are more sculptures and in the small contemporary gallery, which joins the house, and was showing some abstract works by Sheila Girling. I had expected to only see the Caro's on display in the garden but a number of other artists had work on show which made for a more interesting visit. Barbara Hepworth was included as was Richard Long. There were a few odd pieces that looked like fairy tale characters from the Brothers Grimm but they were offset by pieces that I found more interesting and were abstract pieces inspired by the human figure.

I realised I was getting a bit tired when, in the walled kitchen garden, I paid more attention to the structures that the runner beans were growing up than the artwork next to them. However the things that really impressed me here were a couple of very large amphorae lying on the ground. I don't know if these were really, really old but I know this kind of thing was used in ancient Rome to contain oil or wine and I liked to imagine that they might be ancient.

We completed our visit by sitting on one of the exhibits and having a chat. It was a piece called 'Harbour' by Oliver Barratt - I hope he didn't mind but we just needed to have a sit down before embarking on our return journey to Salisbury.

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