The significance of an artistic image

Courbet's painting 'The Corn Sifters' had remained in my memory since the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1978, to be drawn upon 22 years later in this garden surrounded by wheat-fields. Courbet used vanishing lines to create space. He views from above the scene of a young woman kneeling on the ground, winnowing corn through a sieve. Her strong arms hold the oval sieve in tension parallel with the ground upon which the sieved wheat falls lightly. Our attention is drawn to her connection with the earth. Courbet's woman places her knees apart on the ground forming a structure of balance and energy. Gustave Courbet 'The Corn Sifters'- 1855.



Site specific sculpture 'Together with Tangents'

The site was allocated at Wimpole Hall Gardens on a grassy incline within a direct line of sight of the lawns and geometric flowerbeds, with Wimpole Hall in the distance. From this height one could see visitors enjoying the gardens. They could look up towards the site and approach it by path or from the extensive lawns. Large trees flanked the space on three sides to suggest an enclosure from which one could look down at the scene below. I aimed to connect elements of the built garden with elements from nature. Grass would grow up through the sculpture. People would be invited to explore it. An interplay of man and nature would be experienced. My sculpture would be made from the forms of objects already used in the garden. I am intrigued by things of human ingenuity such as turnbuckle, tension wire, stake, rope, screw, spiral, triangle, oval, circle, tassel, and twist. These are incorporated into my design. Rooted in the earth, the form of the sculpture is open, multi-layered and tensions outwards from its relaxed centre. From simple knots, tassels fall in soft columns, forming curves within the form. The inherent significance of the sculpture is enhanced by a harmonious relationship with its surroundings. The grass growing through the sculpture during the summer would become a symbol of natural growth and change. The scale of the site and the fact that people visit it, determine the decisions upon which the design was drawn. How big is a space in which to feel a comfortable human boundary? 'Together with Tangents' (10 x 12 x. 5.30 metres) was made in my Manchester studio. The sculpture could be transported in easily movable parts and was built on site within the week before the opening of the exhibition.


A load of rope

Painting the stakes

Drying the stakes








The Concept

The physical, materiality of the sculpture echoes the immaterial structures of contemporary thought. Based in the experience of our time, we are aware of previous boundaries now opening beyond expectations. 'Together with Tangents' became a meeting place and focus for looking, listening and conversation. I am concerned with the quality, value and meaning inherent in action. A contemporary way of experiencing is presented by my sculpture, which is inclusive, multi -layered, open, and multi-directional. Our time is a period of enormous technological expansion, change and uncertainty. Therefore, in 'Together with Tangents', I did not work with the manipulation of mass, which traditionally denotes permanence and certainty. Instead, I considered open form, demarcated space, displayed volumes, nodal points and changing perspectives. Nodal points dispersed in space appear in sculpture internationally. Many strands of experience are thus drawn together, until new meaning grows from its coherence; thus salient form is born through the language of sculpture. (One example of this is the sculpture of Nam June Paik, who uses water and light dispersed in space. Exhibited Spring 2000 in New York at the Guggenheim Museum.)


The ground plan is drawn with string and nails. Later it is elevated in the rope sculpture. The grassy ground is demarcated by its contrast with the cut lawn surrounding it. A quantity of rope had been prepared in various measured lengths. The ends of the ropes were heat - sealed. The various lengths were tagged for each section. Metal stakes were designed and made to keep upright at varying heights from the ground into which they were driven. These were forged and welded in galvanised iron. There were two designs for the stakes: one design with shoulders that were needed to be driven into the ground and retain their upright position. The other design was for large screws also with shoulders. These spiral stakes proved to stabilise the guy ropes. The stake’s rings were welded at their heads. The ropes were thus held in place. The rings were painted red, yellow and blue to refl ect the colours of the surrounding fields of poppies, rape and flax. Varying planes drawn in white rope are held in tension parallel to the growing grass. From simple knots, tassels fall in soft columns, forming curves within the form. Numbered bags contained the rope and stakes for each section of the sculpture.


The Protractor












The Sculpture

Designed and built as a temporary structure, it remained stable throughout the summer.

Purity in measurement

When sitting on the ground to measure long lines, there is a connection with the earth through the mind. This very peaceful experience echoes healing in the ancient Navaho culture. The shaman would sit on the ground with the person undergoing a life transition and make a vast sand painting all around them on the earth. They would sit together thus for several days and nights. After this attentive and connecting activity the person would be healed or made whole and be ready to continue on the journey of life. The experience of unity is located deep within, to be accessed when needed.

Heritage Turf Protected.

Having previously been mown for three centuries, permission was obtained for the heritage turf to grow up through the sculpture.


The stakes penetrated the earth's surface through mown lawn. The grasses grew and seeded during the summer. Free waving grasses contrasted with the twist and tension in the surface of the ropes. The ropes held in tension appear to float above the surface of the grass. The height of the stakes and rings varied, giving the whole sculpture an appearance of layered planes parallel with the ground. The tassels were tactile and fell. The growing grasses reached up through the sculpture. The reflective surfaces of the stakes make them seem to disappear when viewed from a distance. The effect of the red, yellow and blue rings distributed over the surface of the sculpture evoked a feeling of leisure and outdoor activity.


In the catalogue of the Printmaking Partnership - Cecile Elstein and Kip Gresham, held at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester in 1991, Sarah Hyde wrote: "It is the fact that screenprints are built up from superimposed layers of colour which continually attract Cecile to the process; 'the layered nature of screenprinting suits the way I think'. Part of her aim was to produce an image built up of transparent layers that affect and enhance each other. Screenprinting in translucent inks allows Cecile to add new marks and images without obliterating those that lie below. Each layer thus enriches without destroying that which lies beneath."

This open, multi-layered aspect used previously in printmaking, is reconsidered in three dimensions through the sculpture 'Together with Tangents.'


Together with Tangents

Tangents - closeup

Rings and Ropes

The Audience


There was an overwhelming response to the sculpture exhibition at Wimpole Hall Gardens. It was visited by some 200,000 people. Maureen Kendal noticed a general trend towards open form in the sculptures of Bray, Elstein, J. Fairfax, Fluck and Kirby. Open form was different from the traditional use of mass by other sculptors, such as Blumenfeld, Pye, Edwards, Marvell and Lopez- Kindersleigh. Unlike these sculptors, Ryder used wire mesh to create masses, for example 'Harehead'. We looked forward to the opportunity of public engagement with 'Together with Tangents.' Its open form encouraged movement around, in and through it. Visitors to the exhibition explored the sculpture in their various ways. Their questions and interpretations enriched our understanding of different approaches in experiencing the sculpture. Conversations with individual visitors were enlightening and gave pleasurable insights into their varied responses. 'Together with Tangents' was described variously as: "This animal; aeroplane; earthbound creature; bird; town; avenues of communication; sail; ship; musical instrument; layers of experience; culmination of tension and release; about relationships; it makes me look from above as a bird might see it; structures of experience; poem; it floats like in the sea; it reminds one of outdoor and leisure; rooted."


Evie Garrett in Tangents

The Moon sisters, twist, teasel, twinkletoe

Camilla explores Tangents with Andy and Helen Bliss-Williams












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