Unravelling Uppark

Today I made a long awaited visit to National Trust property Uppark House, looking glorious in the Autumn sun, perched like a dolls house on top of the South Downs.  My motivation was to see 'Unravelling Uppark',  an exhibition of work by artists rooted in craft practise who were commissioned by Unravelled Arts to make conceptual work in response to this National Trust building and it's history.

The installations were diverse, some more successful than others. We were greeted by life size figures 'Io and Euthenia', 'drawn' out of steel by artist blacksmith Agnes Jones, beautifully framed by lichen covered walls. Alice Kettle and Helen Felcey collaborated on a huge imaginative work 'The House of Eloi' inspired by H G Wells science fiction books, (his mother being house keeper at Uppark) incorporating cloth, embroidery, glass, plastic, perspex, ceramic and placed in the Doll's House room.

My highlights include a piece by the ridiculously talented ceramicist, Robert Cooper, who collaborated with the equally talented basketry artist Stella Harding to produce the , 'Dish of the day: chicken in a basket.' At the very least this dish is to be admired for it's complexity in terms of technique and layers of meaning that might not be obvious to the casual observer, but it is a beautiful piece regardless.

Simon Ryder's laser-etched crystal glass cubes capture ethereal, undulating, landscapes that reflect the cadence of birdsong in the garden. They are small and easy to miss, but beautiful. 

Zoe Hillyard's work was influenced by debris found in the aftermath of a devastating fire at Uppark in 1989. Her unique technique using the Japanese tradition of ceramic mending produced some stunning ceramic and fabric forms that looked very at home in their surroundings. The wallpaper in this room was fabulous.

Last but not least, I loved the ceramic installation by Matt Smith, 'Garniture: The Bullock Buckets'. These jaunty ceramic containers stand on feet, mimicking the original fire buckets of the house, incorporating screen-printed decals and lustre painted sprigged garlands to reflect the story of the diary maid who married the 17th century owner of Uppark. 

One of the unexpected highlights was the beautiful markings on the walls made by lichen, mould and decay.  The middle top photo is almost Turneresque.

Unravelling Uppark is an interesting and diverse exhibition in a stunning setting. It's well worth a visit and  I would recommend the beautifully produced catalogue that accompanies the exhibition; the explanation of each installation certainly increases appreciation of the work. If you'd like to visit, hurry, it closes this Sunday!

Hilary Mayo