One of my last days in Dorset, I ventured out to a hidden gem that was 15 minutes from my house. Why I never came here before puzzled me, but I’m so glad I visited this mystical place.
Sculpture by the Lakes is an exhibition of sculptures (title gave it away, didn’t it) seen in their natural habitat. The concept is simple: a deep connection between art and viewer to create emotions. Their view on sculptures, to my mind, is what art is all about:
“A sculpture, on a superficial level must encapsulate beauty; […] on a deeper level it should resonate with the viewer and have a subconscious appeal to their emotions, whether those emotions are the same as the artist intended is not important, what is important is that the viewer connects with the art.”
Upon arrival, nothing seems special about the place, but beyond the car park and ice cream bar you enter a new world. Each sculpture is hidden between the trees and bushes or emerges from the watery depths of the lakes surrounding the pathways. It isn’t just displaying artwork in nature, it is the fact that as you try to find each sculpture, you can’t help but feel that you are trespassing in their territory, taking a step too close to a wild thing in its home. For lack of a better description, imagine being on sculpture safari on foot.
Awe is genuinely one of the first things that came over me, then curiosity. It starts with a map. A concentrated ‘mmm‘ as you try to orientate yourself. Then a whispered ‘Look! It’s over there’. The camera comes out and you walk, ever so slowly, towards the frozen drama of a sculpted creature as if you wouldn’t want to disturb the beast in case it ran off. A quick few shots, a long admiring stare and then you pluck up the courage to get a little closer for the prize shot you’ve been waiting for. And just like that, you get up and walk away as if… well… as if you knew you were facing a sculpture and not an undiscovered specimen the entire time.
The enchantment that hangs over Pallington Lakes is strange. It feels slightly like you’ve ended up in a fantasy realm. From sculpture to sculpture you roam the area, pausing, occasionally in a picnic area to enjoy the view. Many of these artworks are simply animals, others, more abstract and some just plain motivating. A quote, I will carry with me always, was chiseled into a sphere standing in the middle of a circle of trees, quietly brooding. It said:
“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang the best”
The photographs I have shared cannot come close to describing the unnerving feeling that those motionless sculptures belonged there and that we were invading visitors. A highly recommended place to visit if ever you venture to the South West of England.