Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbour Fountains Abbey, the dramatic Studley Royal water garden is a masterpiece in its own right and the reason this National Trust property near Ripon is a World Heritage Site. The eye-catching follies of the water garden will be re-imagined this year for the very first time and brought to life through the vision and creativity of three inventive artists and designers.
The original designers of the Studley Royal Water Garden, the Aislabie family, created many follies on this vast and beautiful estate to surprise and delight their eighteenth-century guests. The landscape they created was the height of fashion in its day. A place for escapism and pleasure, here esteemed guests would have been invited to while away the hours by mirror-like ponds, gentle cascades and classical statues. Key to this picture are the follies, the whimsical buildings designed to catch the eye and draw attention to a carefully created view or vista. The sense of theatre in their original design is echoed in these innovative and astonishing artworks.
Gary McCann explores the relationship between man and nature with his piece ‘Scavenger’ in the Banqueting House, a fantastical creature on a grand scale, while within the smooth classical pillars of the Temple of Fame the invasion of the landscape continues with his installation ‘Lost Property’. Gary McCann is internationally renowned for his inventive and theatrical approach to set and costume design. His audacious style has led him to producing work for many of the world’s leading theatre and opera companies including the National Theatre in the West End, on Broadway and the Vienna State Opera.
Irene Brown’s work ‘Hall of Mirrors’ will transform the inside of the Octagon Tower into a world of shifting perspectives and infinite views. Turning the idea of follies to provide viewing points to distant prospects or along carefully-constructed avenues on its head, the artist turns the viewer into the subject with mirrors evocative of the opulence of the period, epitomised by the great hall of mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in France. Irene Brown is an artist and academic whose research and practice is engaged with wonder, focusing on the history and philosophy of science.
Simon Costin delves into the history, folklore and ancient mythology of the Water Garden in the Temple of Piety where bizarre secrets are revealed and a strange series of events unfold. The estate papers of the late Professor Dennistoun will take you on a journey of discovery in this ‘ancient place of worship now in ruin’. Simon Costin studied Theatre Design and history of Art and has grown to become an internationally respected art director, curator and set designer. He is renowned for the conceptually ambitious nature of his designs for some of the country’s biggest fashion names including Alexander McQueen.
Folly! launches on Saturday 25 April and runs until Sunday 29 November 2015. You can pick up a mini guide to lead you or use a ‘marvellously magical family map’ to create your own journey of exploration.
Find out more on the National Trust website here www.nationaltrust.org.uk/folly