on form - Sculpture exhibition at Asthall Manor

I was delighted  to be invited to Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire to the on form sculpture exhibition press launch the other day.
This is a very beautiful manor house, built originally in the seventeenth century and most noted for being the childhood home of the Mitford Sisters (and brother).  Now it is the perfect setting for this mainly outdoor exhibition.

The exhibition is held every two years and according to the website is the only exhibition in the UK dedicated only to stone sculpture.  This year there are 268 sculptures by 39 artists in the grounds and in the ballroom attached to the house.  All of the sculptures are for sale and when I visited some had already been sold.
I am not going to show you every sculpture, but you can see hopefully from this photograph that the setting is just perfect to show the pieces off.  I loved these bird sculptures by Emma Maiden, they were probably my favourite of the day.  I could picture one fitting into my garden.
This is 'If you want to be me be me' by Guy Stevens.  It is just beckoning you to climb inside and rest a while.  All the sculptures can, I would say should, be touched.  It tells you in the brochure 'please do touch' and it was impossible not to put a hand onto these wonderful shapes.  For me sight alone was not enough to fully appreciate them.
The garden itself is worth visiting.  It was designed by I and J Bannerman and it is fantastically beautiful.  It flows from one area to the next and the sculptures help lead your eye around.
This annual meadow is just stunning. There are also some really good trees in the grounds, including a rather fine Davidia that I stood underneath and had sheer Davidia-envy.
and can I just mention this fan-trained cercis on the Bookshop veranda rail; how incredible is this?  I have never seen one trained in this way before and I just stood in front of it in wonder.
The house is smothered in roses and the scent is wonderful.  I think that this is some sort of salvia, but I have never seen anything like it before climbing up a wall.  I am sure one of you will tell me what it is.
This earthwork is the perfect place for this work by Angela Palmer, 'Anthropocene'.  The sixteen rocks symbolise the sixteen geological periods.  The final boulder is mirrored. We walked along the boulders and back again because we could.
Some of the sculptures are large,
others are really quite small.  Look how this glows, this is from natural light there is not something artificial lighting it from within.
You can wander the exhibition at your leisure, there is no set path and you discover the pieces as you go.  You can see other pieces in the distance in the meadow beyond the house and you feel drawn to explore.
These wings (Pisa Wings I and Pisa Wings II) by Paul Vanstone are huge and, like the other pieces, have to be touched.
They are wonderfully dramatic.
This is Fragment by Mark Stonestreet, the white streak is not meant to be there, it was nature taking part in the exhibition.  If you are going to have an external exhibition, then this kind of thing will happen.  We had to get quite close to realise that this was not intentional and whilst it should not be there, I felt it sort of worked.
I also loved this piece, The Doubler by Guy Stevens.  It looked and felt wonderful and, I have to confess, I thought made a great seat by the side of the river.
The sculptures are also in the nearby churchyard.
Some of the headstones are very old.
and parts of the church still have the most beautiful wall paintings.  I do not think I have ever been in such a beautifully painted church.
and the exhibits did not look out of place.  This piece is only lit by the natural light behind it.
Across the road from the house is the old walled garden, which still houses the vegetable garden.  Like the rest of the garden this area was immaculate.
Old trained fruit trees still lined the walls in places.
and the centre was left to meadow.  The Potting Shed cafe is set up in this area.
I loved this old bench holding a simple display of flower pots and the rather adorable dog seemed to like them too.
Inside the ballroom there are some smaller pieces all displayed on antique furniture from Toby Lorford, Lorfords Antiques

As you walk around you cannot help but be aware of the volume of the birdsong.  The sound surrounds you.  There is a schedule of events throughout the exhibition, one of which is Birdsong Walk on the 16th June which is just a perfect idea.

The exhibition is curated by Rosie Pearson and Anna Greenacre and runs from Sunday 12th June to Sunday 10th July.  Opening times and more information can be found here: http://www.onformsculpture.co.uk/visit


  1. What a wonderful and varied collection!
    I like so many of them, but will just mention the Anthropocene (a bit like Avebury) and the arch with all the mask-like faces (which looks a little Aztec, in a way).
    Thanks for taking us along :)

  2. Some nice pieces there and the setting is great for all of them!

    1. thanks, it is the most amazing garden and the sculpture works with it perfectly


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