‘Elements of Capability’ – Outdoor sculpture at Lacock Abbey

Flying Swallows by Celia Smith

An intriguing outdoor sculpture show inspired by the work of landscape designer, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, will be displayed by the National Trust at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire.

The show commemorates the 300th anniversary of the birth of Brown, whose vision transformed the gardens of the landed gentry in the 1700s. With a wave of his pencil he crossed out formal gardens with long straight walks, artificial fountains and topiary and in their place he drew a pastoral idyll of open fields, meandering lakes and lush woods.

Archives hold four receipts for work that Brown carried out at Lacock Abbey, but they only list the amount he was paid not the work he did and, despite visits by Capability experts, the team at Lacock can only guess what may have happened.

‘There used to be a large formal pleasure garden here next to the River Avon,’ said Head Gardener, Sue Carter, ‘At about this time that disappeared and was replaced by the field landscape that remains today. But, we really cannot say exactly what ‘Capability’ Brown did here.’ 

Running until 22 May, ‘Elements of Capability’ will echo Brown’s artistic vision and reflect the central elements of his designs: wide open skies, rolling meadows, hills fringed by woodland, placid reflective lakes and grazing animals.  

Fragmentation II by Melissa Cole

Fragmentation II by Melissa Cole

Featured artists include; Melissa Cole, Woody Fox, Anna Gillespie, Annie Mulholland, Lisa Pettibone, Celia Smith, Lucy Strachan and Raymond Wirick, who bring a variety of styles, materials and talents to Lacock.

Lottie Watts, Visitor Experience Manager at Lacock said, ‘We are very lucky to have so many brilliant artists included in the show. Melissa Cole is a blacksmith artist from Marlborough whose work echoes the landscape and water theme, while Woody Fox’s life-like willow animals will surprise and delight. 

‘Anna Gillespie’s masterful bronze figure with ivy spilling from his hands shows a man truly at one with nature and the colourful stained glass contributed by Bradford-on-Avon artist, Annie Mulholland, depict some of the wildlife that inhabited Brown’s landscapes. 

Flying Swallows by Celia Smith

Flying Swallows by Celia Smith

‘Lisa Pettibone’s glass and mirror sculptures will reflect the big open skies that Capability loved so much while Corsham based Celia Smith’s delicate wire swallows will appear to fly over the meadow next to the abbey. 

‘Lucy Strachan will show two pieces, including the eleven metre high ‘Godrod’ which links the land with the sky above, and Raymond Wirick’s thought-provoking timber piece is discernible in the landscape while being very much part of its surroundings.’

‘Elements of Capability’ runs until 22 May, daily from 10.30am to 5.30pm in the grounds of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, SN15 2LG. Normal admission applies, National Trust members and under 5s go free. For more information please call 01249 730459 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock-abbey-fox-talbot-museum-and-village


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