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National Trust and modern art: Andrew Logan at Buckland Abbey

October 3, 2017
Andrew Logan at Buckland Abbey

Vegan teen stretches towards a butterfly – Goldfield by Andrew Logan in the Great Barn, Buckland Abbey

We scuttled out of the Dartmoor rain into the barn, leaving the dark skies for a brilliant scene inside. This simple, solid farm building has remained unchanged since it was constructed in around 1278 and has the grace of a cathedral. A field of golden, quivering, shimmering blades of wheat reached up to the raised-cruck timber roof. Little mice, covered in mosaics of silver mirror, clutched the waving slender stems, a jewelled butterfly hung by a thread from the ceiling, twisting, turning, and catching weak rays from the skylights.

It’s hard to define Andrew Logan‘s work but it often draws on fantasy and the allegorical. He uses many fragments of glass, mirror, shiny surfaces, bright colours and jewels in his creations. When I saw a picture of this exhibition, I knew that I absolutely had to go and visit. How would these works fit within traditional, old buildings? The juxtaposition of ancient and outré was so intriguing.

Andrew Logan at Buckland Abbey

Buckland Abbey

There is an image of the typical National Trust visitor as rather elderly and conservative, and I’ll admit that when strolling round Buckland Abbey on a weekday I was the youngest visitor by far, apart from my teenage daughter. This part Tudor property set in rolling countryside with views to the River Tamar and gorgeous wooded walks is a gem, but we weren’t here for the legacy of the Cistercian monks from the 1200s,  the Elizabethan wood carvings, or the tales of its most famous owner, Sir Francis Drake. Our motivation this time was to see a unique retrospective of a major living artist – a sculptor, jewellery maker and performance artist – with collected works from four decades and new creations.

Leaving the Great Barn, past a man bent double over the herb garden, we ventured off to explore the outdoor installations. Petals of smiling daisies – The Four Flowers of the Apocalypse – reflected the scudding, grey clouds from the inside of a greenhouse, but more dramatic was a fist clutching a sword, thrusting up from the cart pond. It was gothic and a bit menacing in such a bucolic scene until a little robin flew onto the sharp tip of Excalibur.

Almost as captivating as the range and variety of the works was the way they were arranged throughout the house. A lavish fountain pen inside a cabinet with a hand-lettered manuscript, a jewelled cross on the altar of a small chapel, a tiny sculpture hidden inside the bread oven in the Tudor kitchen. Each room was staffed by a volunteer who would usually explain more about the old treasures there, but had been briefed on Andrew Logan’s works too. Most were really enthusiastic but one lady, when quizzed, admitted she wasn’t altogether enamoured but that they were interesting. This definitely reflected the divided views of other visitors – one couple walked into the barn and after a “What’s that doing there?”, left in disgust. Seeking out the 18 major works added a completely different perspective to our afternoon and drew attention to the regular exhibits in a new way. The latest piece, commissioned for the exhibition – a glass portrait of Francis Drake – was one of our favourites.

Organised under the Trust New Art contemporary art programme, ‘The Art of Reflection‘ explored themes ranging from discovery and tranquility to nature and the universe. I’m in favour of this kind of collaboration for many reasons. It adds a new audience and relevance to these beautifully preserved properties, it provokes thought and discussion, and brings major works of modern art to areas of the country where they are usually pretty inaccessible.  I’d visited Croome near Pershore previously for the ‘Vanity of Small Differences‘ – a series of six striking tapestries by the artist Grayson Perry inspired by William Hogarth’s 18th century paintings ‘A Rake’s Progress’ and as meaningful about the modern age as historic tapestries are about earlier times.

I adore the National Trust. At a time when the UK government are deregulating planning laws in favour of big developers giving them carte blanche to sully vast swathes of our green and pleasant land, I am even more grateful that they keep so much of it protected.  It’s not just about old buildings, it is a huge force in looking after the environment for future generations at all levels, from local food initiatives to lobbying MPs about the implications of Brexit on the food, farming and the English countryside.  The National Trust is a charity founded in 1895 by three people who saw the importance of our nation’s heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. I always renew my annual membership even though I’m only in the UK for a few weeks every year and love exploring new places or returning to old favourites.

This collaboration with the beacons of contemporary modern art may attract nay sayers but not me – I’m excited to see what the dear old National Trust comes up with next. And everyone else can go and clear the air on a long walk in glorious surroundings (perfectly way-marked of course!). To quote Andrew Logan “My work is about joy and celebration.” I’m all for that.

Click on any picture in the gallery to see the whole image.

Home-grown and locally-sourced produce plus regional dishes are championed by the National Trust. We bought apples from the orchard when we were walking round the extensive kitchen garden.

Buckland Abbey

The Art of Reflection is at Buckland Abbey until mid February 2018 except Goldfield which is installed until mid October 2017. More details about some of the works here and Andrew Logan here.

 

 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2017 11:43 am

    Such a beautiful place and exhibition! Thanks for sharing.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Dave Reeder permalink
    October 3, 2017 2:09 pm

    Just stunning, especially that table! Haven’t been to Buckland Abbey for many years – I used to go with my parents on our annual holiday to South Devon – but it’s now high on my list of must-see places as soon as I get my car. With your NT membership card, you must come and se the nearby Castle Drogo on your next visit to Dartmoor – the last castle built in Britain and nearing the end of a major refurbishment. However, since one of the cooks there is also my gardener, I might suggest eating elsewhere… Also on your must-see list in the West Country is Heligan – known for its ‘lost gardens’, which fell into neglect when the gardening staff all left for the First World War. A beautiful spot and, interestingly, in the parish where my father’s father was rector for some years.

  3. andreamynard permalink
    October 3, 2017 5:02 pm

    Looks like a fabulous exhibition Sally and I love the juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary. I also agree with you re enthusiasm for the National Trust, I’ve been playing hide and seek in our nearby Hidcote gardens since my daughter was a toddler. We used to be met with frowns from more conservative visitors as we leapt out from hedges (maybe they had a point!) but just over the last 10 years the vibe across NT properties has become so much more relaxed and family friendly with pond dipping and picnics encouraged. I really like Croome too, and many of the recently acquired and less formal properties.

  4. October 3, 2017 11:35 pm

    The art would be enough, but the venue and display approach take the exhibition over the top. I hope to see it in person when I’m in England next month, though sorry to be missing Goldfield due to timing.

  5. louiseriis permalink
    October 7, 2017 3:42 am

    What a beautiful scenery – and the exhibition looks like it is definitely worth a visit! I still crave for going to places outside London, since I am still a newcomer – so it is great with new inspiration. Thank you
    X Louise

  6. October 8, 2017 2:14 pm

    What a beautiful exhibition. I too love the National Trust and the way it manages to conserve the old without ignoring the best of contemporary art and design. The exhibition looks quite fascinating – I particularly like the capture of vegan teen;)

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