Confirmation, Celebration, Explanation & Expectation


24th January 2024

This is not an epitaph.

By Rosie Pearson

Celebration: What a thing we made, between us! Since 2002, our little sculpture show – inspired by two unruly pumpkins, a group of obsessively hardworking artists, and a recently divorced multi-tasker in search of a new adventure –  has grown into a feature on the summer calendar, a place where people come for love, conversation and beauty, and a serious source of income for artists working in that most neglected medium, stone. We’ve also supported six local charities, and given them a space to talk about their work and engage with our visitors.

Stone, stone, stone. It has been our delight to ask people to touch the sculpture, to connect with the time embedded in it, to understand the process by which form and meaning are carved out of rock. I hope that one thing we have achieved is to inform people about the extraordinary work that goes into sourcing, transporting, roughing out, carving and polishing stone until it sings with meaning, and then finding a way to install it safely in its place, whether for exhibition or forever. The Ballroom installation in 2022, conceived by Anna Greenacre (of whom more below) was a dusty, chiselled view into the stone-carver’s world.

Special thanks to those of you who bought sculpture from us. Some of you were big-time art collectors, others were buying for the first time. From what we’ve heard, the forms you’ve made your own are still doing their work as objects that give spaces their soul.

Thanks also to all of you who came and wandered and looked and touched and questioned and fell in love and lounged about and drank tea and took photographs and painted and brought your friends and talked to sculptors and learned how to carve and……all the other things we don’t even know you were up to.

As the years went by, we added more elements: dance, music, café, workshops, a bookshop and more than a dash of subtle activism.

Explanation: So why the pause?

Well. 2022 was the year which our inspired and dedicated curator, Anna Greenacre, had always set as her last year. She has a life to live, and is currently embarked on her own artistic journey, studying oil painting at the Norfolk Painting School. Then I (Rosie) was elected as a district councillor (Green Party of course.) The process of planning and installing on form has always been intense and life-consuming. As is local politics! Although I believe strongly in the power of art to transform, those two jobs, especially without Anna, were just not going to be compatible.

All good things should pause from time to time. We don’t believe in things getting indefinitely bigger. We believe that, in time, art will bubble up of its own accord. Infact, this is already happening. Last month, following a hedge-laying day, gardeners Owen and Neil used the arisings (willow branches) to construct a circular feature in the water meadow, that we are calling our Dead Head Henge. That’s landscape art for visitors to enjoy, and I feel fairly sure that stone sculpture will find its way back to the garden, too, when the time is right. Those stones have a life of their own, and they don’t like to take no for an answer. Plus I love them.

Expectation: There is lots of good news.

This summer, we will be opening the garden, without any sculpture, for our usual midsummer month, but on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only. You can head over to our Asthall Manor site for full dates and details, but there will be no booking required.

From time to time, we will let you know of other sculpture exhibitions featuring the work of on form artists, either via our newsletter or via social media (see links below).

Another way to enjoy Asthall is to  join in with the activities of our new Community Interest Company, Asthall Wild (CIC). Based in the walled garden, resident grower Tim Mitchell and others will offer workshops and retreats throughout the years to come. See upcoming events on our ‘What’s On’ page.

Sculpture from previous exhibitions is still available to buy from our website, here. And, if you’re missing us, why not refresh your on form memories with one of our fly-through videos? Or listen to the wonderfully wide-ranging podcast that Materially Speaking made with us.