Turner Prize winner Sir Tony Cragg exhibition opens at Houghton Hall
- Credit: Kate Wolstenholme/Dominic Lipinski/PA Images
Sir Tony Cragg's uniquely organic sculptures sit in the landscaped grounds of Houghton Hall, so alien to the Palladian architecture, yet so in sync with the vista on which they sit; "the sculpture almost looks as if it is misbehaving", he says.
The works, some of which have never been on show before, dot around the vast grounds and interior of the Hall in graceful harmony with each other, as Sir Tony becomes the sixth contemporary artist to show at Houghton since 2015, succeeding artists such as Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor.
Living and working in Germany, Sir Tony has self-curated the exhibition from afar with the help of photographs and plans of the grounds, with travel restrictions imposing difficulties in the exhibition's curation.
He says: "At Houghton all the spaces and perspectives are dominated by a grand building and it is a privileged opportunity to be able to disturb this historical balance and give it a different meaning and function by exhibiting sculpture here."
Using unconventional materials such as bronze and fiberglass to create large-scale fluid sculptures, these static forms dominate the landscape in which they sit whilst being softly non-invasive. Sir Tony says: "Materials and material forms affect us all the time and I just wanted to find out what ideas and emotions I could create with materials".
Sir Tony's sculptures take inspiration from the natural and man-made worlds around him as he pushes materials to their limits. Nature has a large influence on his work; he says: "Sculpture should inform us of the profound relationship we have with nature on the one hand and on the other it should stand as examples of a meaningful human production. A sign of our humanity".
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The sculptures seem as though they could be changing in front of you. As you circulate, shapes not first seen become visible, faces appear and light changes their forms.
Built by Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, in around 1722. The Houghton estate was passed to the Cholmondeley family at the end of the 18th Century and remains a family home. Lord Cholmondeley, owner of Houghton Hall, said: "I have always been a great admirer of Tony Cragg's work, and it will be incredibly exciting to see how it will come together and interact with the historic landscape and interiors of Houghton.’’
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Born in Liverpool, Sir Tony studied at art school in 1969, at a time when the art world was changing and sculpture was being created in a way it had not before. Working alongside radical emerging sculptors such as Richard Deacon and Antony Gormley, Sir Tony was part of a new wave of artists breaking tradition.
He says: "It was a very dynamic situation in that three generations of sculptors were engaged in a discourse about what sculpture was, wasn't or could be. The basic question was, as always, about the relationship of form and content."
Amanda Geitner, director of the East Anglian Art Fund, describes the period as a "revolution in people's understanding of what art could be and where it could be made. An interest in innovation and imagination and what could be done with the stuff of the world."
Nature, material, landscape and art sit in graceful harmony against the backdrop of Houghton Hall and Norfolk's expansive skies. As usual with Houghton's blossoming arts programme, this show is not one you want to miss.
Tony Cragg at Houghton Hall will be on show from May 19 to September 26. Tickets are on sale and must be pre-booked online via the Houghton Hall website.