Holocene

Holocene

Ann-Margreth Bohl’s sculpture Holocene, at the RHS Show Garden, Chatsworth House, 6-10 June 2018.

Visitors to this year’s Royal Horticultural Society Show Garden at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, will witness a highly unusual event.

A monumental stone sculpture, which will be on display in the garden, is similar to Stonehenge and other ancient sites that are lit up on particular days of the year: it is precisely aligned with the movements of the sun. At an exact moment, 4.30PM on Saturday 9 June, the shadows cast by the sun will fit perfectly with outlines of shadows that are carved into the stone.

The sculpture, which is named Holocene after the current geological epoch, takes the form of a series of large sandstone blocks, which come from the Chatsworth estate. Like a large sundial, the blocks cast a complex pattern of shadows at different times of day, meaning that the work repays spending time with and revisiting. Some of the blocks also have carved into them, in deep relief, the outline of the shadows that will be falling on them at a precise moment of time: this has been worked out exactly using computer modelling.

The creator of Holocene is Stroud-based sculptor Ann-Margreth Bohl, working with digital designer Dan Hughes McGrail and stone carver Danny Evans. Much of Ann-Margreth’s previous work, which includes previous commissions for the RHS and the National Memorial Arboretum, has also explored themes of light and shadow, change and the passing of time.

By using stone from the Chatsworth estate, Holocene’s carbon footprint is kept to a minimum. The work in a sense comes from the Derbyshire landscape (where quarrying has historically been an important industry), and it is due to return to it: after the blocks have been displayed in the RHS Show Garden, they will stay on the Chatsworth estate.

Will the shadows really ‘fit’ at the predicted time? Visitors will have to come and find out.

Further information

Holocene can be seen at the RHS Show Garden, Chatsworth House, 6-10 June 2018

Written by Matt Shinn

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Lumen

Lumen

The play of light and shadow is a recurring theme in Ann-Margreth Bohl’s sculptures.

Lumen (the name comes from the standard unit for measuring light) was inspired by two recent journeys. The first was to Portland in Dorset, where Ann-Margreth first began stone-carving (‘I feel a very strong connection to the place’). Looking at cut blocks that were left in the old Portland stone quarries, Ann-Margreth became interested in the spaces between them: ‘I watched how the light moves round in them, at different times of day. A void can be a space where a lot of things are happening.’

The second journey was to Iceland, where Ann-Margreth was fascinated by the abandoned shell of an airliner, which had been left sitting on the black sand of a volcano after it was forced to crash-land, in the Seventies (no-one died). Light coming through the square windows into the dark and empty fuselage again changes the spaces in between.

Lumen plays with some of these ideas. It features four limestone blocks cut into a series of angular planes. There are subtle variations in the angles in the white stone, each of which is like the angle of sunlight at a given moment, as if it were making solid something that is usually fleeting. ‘It’s like I’ve frozen the movement of the light,’ says Ann-Margreth. ‘As humans we can’t do anything to stop time, but we often try.’

The white blocks rest on a bed of black sand: an echo of the Icelandic volcano. For all their precision, the blocks are carved by hand, using Ann-Margreth’s own distinctive method of measuring and calculating angles.

For Ann-Margreth, there’s a pleasing paradox here: ‘working in an immortal material, but using it to represent something as ephemeral as the movement of light’. There’s also something of the Zen garden about the installation: ‘you need to spend a bit of time with it.’ Ann-Margreth has recently been working on a much bigger scale, with her three-metre-tall sculpture Passing Light, for the National Memorial Arboretum. Lumen, too, could serve as a model for something much larger.

Written by Matt Shinn

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