A new contemporary arts installation is coming to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.
Folly: “A building designed to satisfy a fancy or conceit, usually of an eccentric kind”.
From May to November Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal will be hosting the fourth folly! contemporary art exhibition, perhaps the biggest and boldest commission yet.
The original designers of the Studley Royal Water Garden, the Aislabie family, created many follies to surprise and delight their 18th century guests. Since 2015 The National Trust at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal have been celebrating these fashionable and whimsical structures and the Georgian water garden they sit within, through the folly! exhibition series.
The exhibition is inspired by designs for a 16-metre-high funerary Pyramid which estate archive records show was commissioned by William Aislabie in the 18th century, after his father’s death. Despite scale drawings and detailed costings for the piece, no further mentions of the pyramid were ever made no record or evidence exists of this mysterious pyramid ever being built.
The artworks for folly! 2020 will be designed by artist Steve Messam and will feature two full-time installations as well as an occasional installation.
Steve Messam is an artist based in County Durham. His temporary site-specific installations re-imagine the everyday, interrupting historical landscapes and vacant architecture to help us perceive the familiar environment in a new way.
His works explore the colour and scale of place. His inflatable textile works include a suite of pieces that filled historic ruins in a Scottish castle gardens and wrapped a seating shelter in Blackpool.
Other works include ‘PaperBridge’ (2015), a functioning packhorse bridge made from 22,000 sheets of paper in the Lake District; and ‘Hush’ (2019) – a lead-mining scar in the North Pennines landscape filled with over five kilometres of saffron-yellow fabric.
Steve explains his inspiration for his upcoming installation by saying:
I guess the overall thing is identifying with the whole concept of Follies – architectural oddities of no specific function other than their visual aesthetic. While over time we may invest them with meaning or stories, at their core they’re just there – large-scale artworks in the landscape, and as an artist that’s what I’ve been interested in for the past 20 years. I’m also interested in the role that follies play in creating focal points in constructed views of the landscape.
The series of artworks are made up of “Bridged” a textile clad footbridge, crossing the River Skell on the site of a former, but short-lived bridge, built in the mid-1770s. “Drifted” which will see a series of around 20 floating pyramids set on the upper canal within the water garden. And occasionally throughout the installation period, “Spiked”, a work placed within the existing folly, Temple of Piety that would take the form of an inflatable yellow ‘starburst, projecting out from the colonnade in a series of pointed spikes.
folly! will be at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal from May to October. These colourful and distinctive installations bring to life the spirit of the garden as the original designers intended it – playful, extraordinary and controversial. What will you make of them?