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Compton Verney unveils monumental new sculpture commission by Ariel Schlesinger
Ways To Say Goodbye © Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park.

COMPTON VERNEY.- This is Schlesinger’s first UK commission, and his first to be located outdoors. The new sculpture is accompanied by a focused solo show of new work by Ariel Schlesinger inside the house (until 15 December 2019). As the unanimous winner of a sculpture competition, Schlesinger has recently designed a similar installation for the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, which will open in 2020 as part of the museum’s regeneration.

Ways To Say Goodbye – a 6-metre tall aluminium tree with shards of glass nested in its upper branches – will be a focal point in the landscape at Compton Verney for the next year.

Exploring the relationship between art and nature has always been central to Compton Verney’s mission and vision. The beautiful, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-designed parkland features 120 acres of meadows, lakes, woodland and undulating lawns, and is considered to be the venue’s largest work of art. Despite its natural appearance, the parkland is the product of years of labour and considered design. It is teaming with imported species, planted with precision around man-made features, designed to guide and control the visitor’s experience of the landscape.

In a nod to Brown’s approach, Schlesinger’s Ways To Say Goodbye embraces the theme of nature and artifice, highlighting the co-dependence of humans and nature through the figure of a tree. Schlesinger says he felt an affinity with ‘Capability’ Brown’s way of working, and was determined to create something that would at first appear natural:

“I felt immediately that I wanted to make something that will blend into the park in the shape of a living organism, so that at first glance it might even look part of the living surroundings. The second view might reveal a different story, maybe even a tragic one… and maybe that’s the paradox here, as much as the tree resembles its surroundings, it is also clearly an outsider, and that’s fine.”

Tamsin Dillon, Associate Curator for the commission, said “It has been a huge pleasure to work with Ariel on this project. Ways To Say Goodbye, his response to the unique historic landscape at Compton Verney, seems designed and made to fit within its surroundings whilst simultaneously reminding us of the constructed character of this apparently natural setting. His curiosity around the dual characteristics of many objects in everyday life underpins his entire artistic practice and this is certainly clear in this ambitious new piece. I hope visitors to the park over the next year will be drawn to look carefully at this remarkable work, cast from the trunk and branches of a tree. I’m sure that, as they come closer, they will also be intrigued by the panes of glass held delicately in its branches. They will also have a chance to see other works by the artist inside the House. It is wonderful that Compton Verney had the opportunity to present these works, which offer a deeper insight to the artist’s practice, his on-going investigation into found objects and the multiple, often darkly humorous, meanings they hold.”

Since 2000, Compton Verney has commissioned contemporary artists to make new work in response to the park, to inspire and engage visitors in its heritage. This includes highly acclaimed works by Simon Patterson, Anya Gallaccio, Dan Pearson, Alex Hartley and Tom James (The Clearing, 2017), and Krijn de Koning (Green Dwelling, now until winter 2021).

Compton Verney is part-funded through Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation, which enables it to continue to commission ambitious contemporary art in response to the landscape.

Compton Verney’s Director, Julie Finch says “At Compton Verney we encourage audiences to look, and to look again, at the art that we present. Ariel’s work captures a moment in a time when alertness to the relationship between nature and humans has never been more acute. This monumental sculpture is both strident in representing nature and in possessing an ingenious subtlety to incite human responses. We look forward to discovering how our audiences will respond to Ariel’s great art in our incredible setting.”

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