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On Form Exhibition at Asthall Manor

Singer of Tales by John Isherwood

Lynn and I spent a fascinating couple of days in the Cotswolds in early July. Our main reason for the trip was a return visit to On Form – a biennial exhibition of stone sculptures in the grounds and house of Asthall Manor.

This amazing place, dating from the seventeenth century was once the home of the Mitford sisters and is now the private home of Rosie Pearson and her family.

The ninth exhibition, which was on from 10th June to 8th July saw 384 sculptures by 40 artists from nine countries set in 14 acres of beautifully designed gardens and water meadows. The culmination of months of work by the artists and the curators, this was a breathtaking display of technical skill and artistic merit.

At the time of our visit, over 200 pieces had been sold. These varied from small works the size of a hand, to major installations many feet tall and costing tens of thousands of pounds.

Blue Spikes by  Guy Stevens

The weather was hot and still, as it was for the whole period of the show and we were entranced by the surroundings almost as much as the art. The gardens were designed by Isabel and Julian Bannerman in 1997/8 and are evolving in a very natural way. Next door is the small twelfth century St Nicholas church which was also part of the exhibition.

Some of the pieces on show defied us to work out how they had been created – as a stone carver I could imagine the challenges of carving some of the intricate shapes and delicate forms. I would be so afraid of a breakage at a late stage!

We stayed the night at the Swan Hotel in Swinbrook, next to the River Windrush and travelled back to Surrey via a couple of beautiful National Trust properties in Oxfordshire – Waddeston Manor and Greys Court. We returned enriched by two amazing days of a rare English summer. We plan to go back to Asthall Manor in 2020 for another dose of inspiration.

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