Thanks to the support of our Friends, each year Messums Wiltshire brings world class international artists to the South West with our residency programme. Invited to stay and work at the Strang Manor Farm during the summer, the artists are asked to create work in response to our thirteenth century barn and the surrounding countryside. Inspired by Wiltshire’s uniquely historic landmarks and monuments, the art created is exhibited in the barn gallery later in the year.
The residency programme started back in our inaugural year 2016, when American artist Judy Pfaff was invited to stay at Sheepwell and became inspired by the local landscape and the architecture of Salisbury Cathedral. Her stay culminated in the creation of a 140ft installation built whilst residing at Strang Manor Farm. And so began a legacy of bringing overseas artists to stay and exhibit in Wiltshire.
Artists include: Judy Pfaff, David Spriggs, Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, Christopher Kurtz, Francesco Poiana and John Beard.
We look forward to welcoming the artist John Beard to our residency programme later in the year, followed by solo exhibition at Messums London and Messums Wiltshire in 2021.
Born in Aberdare, Wales in 1943, Beard studied at the University of London and the Royal College of Art. After which Beard traveled extensively, living and exhibiting in New York, Madrid, Lisbon and London before establishing a Sydney base in 1997. In 1998 he was Artist-In-Residence and his work was the subject of a solo exhibition titled After Adraga at the Tate St Ives in the UK. In 2000/1, His work Wanganui Heads was selected to represent the year ‘1998’ in The London National Portrait Gallery’s Painting the Century, a Hundred years of Portrait Masterpieces. In 2013 he exhibited at The Royal Academy of Art’s exhibition titled ‘Australia’ .
In 2011 a major monograph of his work was published and launched in London at The Royal Academy of Art by Charles Saumarez Smith and in Sydney, at The AGNSW by Edmund Capon.
The artist divides his time between London, Sydney and Europe. John’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is held in the collections of major gallery museums and institutions.
Christopher Kurtz first showed at Messums Wiltshire as part of Material: Wood in the summer of 2018 and his participation – alongside his stellar talk on his work and evolution in to one of the most exciting makers working in wood – resulted in an invitation to create a solo response to our thirteenth century barn. On show in the summer of 2019 was ‘The Traveller can not see North but the Needle can’ and consisting of a series of fine wooden constellations suspended just above the floor, Christopher’s new sculptures explore the push and pull between craftsmanship, sculpture, design and fine art as a single installation that celebrates his chosen material.
Christopher is a master of handcrafted wood – in his hands it takes on a supple and almost biomorphic quality. Raised in Missouri he studied both sculpture and landscape architecture before assisting Martin Puryear (who is representing America at this years Venice Biennale) where he played a pivotal role in fashioning Puryear’s sculptures. Like is former mentor, Christopher’s works are highly intelligent in their use of material and formally inventive. He is fascinated by form – both traditional and modernist – and takes inspiration from architecture and furniture design as much as he does from nature and recognises no difference between ‘art’ and ‘design’. Indeed he adopts the same artistic approach and dedication to pieces that are fantastical as he would to those that are functional.
The vast scale of the barn presented the perfect backdrop to these new works – physically slight, composed of slim limbs of linden wood, each constellation tapered with a drawknife before being joined together into converging vertexes – the sculpture then covered with white milk paint to create a seamless surface. Christopher is one of leading lights of a body of makers from up state New York that have been dubbed ‘the Hudson River school of Wood sculpture’ – his skill at rendering pieces so thin that they challenge the tensile strength of their material as well as the wits of their maker.
He has gained international attention with his sculpture and studio furniture and is included in several public and private collections and has been awarded the New York Foundation For the Arts (NYFA) Award (Lily Auchincloss fellow).
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth were artists-in-residence for five weeks during which time they created a new work for the thirteenth century tithe barn that explores the act of listening across a number of unique Wiltshire environments. The work What Listening Knows will be shown in December 2020.
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth are known for their distinctive installation artworks, using video, sound, architecture, and public participation. Developed through expansive research in places undergoing social change, Leber and Chesworth’s works are speculative and archaeological, responding to architectural, social, and technological settings. Their highly detailed, conceptual videoworks emerge from the real, but exist significantly in the realm of the imaginary.
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth’s artwork has been shown extensively internationally at exhibitions and Biennales as well as in their home country of Australia.
On Friday 19 July, towards the end of their stay Sonia Leber and David Chesworth will join us for a talk hosted by Fiona Gruber, a Melbourne and London-based arts journalist, essayist, broadcaster and radio documentary maker. She’s written on the arts for many of the major Australian and UK newspapers and art journals including the Australian, Art World Australia, the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. Her work for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National includes a ten part series, Australian Portraits and Art After Death, a look at how the art world deals with the legacy of artists and their works. In 2018 she made the documentary “Creative Couple; Sonia Leber and David Chesworth.” about Messums Wiltshire’s 2019 artists in residence.
Continuing a materials based theme, Material: Light will featured ‘Vision II’, a 5m x 5m x 2m light installation by David Spriggs as a sole illumination set in our 13th century monastic barn in one of the most ancient inhabited landscapes in the country. Immediately inspirational yet purposely philosophical and contextual to age old celebrations around the turning point towards a lengthening day. ‘Vision II’ celebrated the experience of light as well as evoking one of our most elemental of relationships.
Light is especially pertinent in the context of the landscape immediately around Messums Wiltshire. Light informed the architectural alignment of Stonehenge in accordance with the sun’s passage and archeology has demonstrated that ancient dwellings where set to an alignment in concert with the trajectory of the sun from its rising in the East. Light both pervades and evades; wave and particle. It is light that is the muse of Material: Light, Messums Wiltshire’s new exhibition, where its ephemerality and diverse meaning are encapsulated in a specially commissioned installation.
Born in Manchester, England, Spriggs now lives and works in Vancouver and is well-known for his large-scale installations through which he probes the symbolic, cultural and historical significance of light. Spriggs received his Bachelor or Fine Art from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1999 and his MFA in sculpture from Concordia University in 2007. His work has been shown nationally and internationally.
Brought up amongst the groves and vineyards of Faedis in northern Italy, the son of an architect and winemaker, Francesco Poiana exchanged the alluvial plains and terraces of the Mediterranean for the wild and open chalk downs of Wiltshire.
Francesco joined our emerging talents programming following his masters degree at Central St Martin’s art college in London in 2019. Later that summer he was invited to Wiltshire to spend time in the landscape surrounding Messums. It was a culmination for him of a reverse Grand Tour, that saw him trace a path from Italy to the landscape from which so many of the most legendary tours started. His interest however was in a connection to the landscape far more ancient; in particular he has been taken by the area around Cranborne Chase with its striations and lush gradations of green and the Bronze Age barrow of Win Green that stands high on a ridge above it, culminating in the online exhibition the Win Green series’.
Using a mixture of oil on paper and print making techniques he explores the mystery and romance of one of Britain’s most historically significant and beautiful quarters. In conversation with head curator Catherine Milner, Francesco discusses his inspiration,
“My three favourite spots of landscape in Wiltshire are the top of Win Green, Fonthill Lake and the view from a farm high above the plain rising up from Messums Wiltshire. I have always loved the landscape paintings of Cozens, Turner and Thomas Jones, who came on the Grand Tour to Italy and in many ways I have felt I am now doing the reverse journey as an Italian, travelling around England. I first discovered their work when I was studying at the Art Academy in Rome. They made their pictures in one sitting and their paintings are very immediate and that attracted me. Importantly for me, they also elevated watercolours from being just sketchy side shows to being stand alone art works in their own right.
What impressed me most about the landscape of the Wiltshire is its order and geometry. It is casual but organised; smooth, with no high mountains or deep valleys, but very soft and gentle. It reminds me of Tuscany without the Cypress trees and with more fields. It also reminds of a Sean Scully painting – it’s a landscape made up of geometrical colour in which the hedges, houses and farms play as much a part as the fields. In many ways, it is already a drawing and the artist just has to finish the process”.
Set in a 13th Century Barn, the largest of its type in the country, the 140-foot long sculptural installation was an ode to the creative strength of a landscape that inspired Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral and the ancient dwellings of England. Made of wood, chalk, stones, root balls from 300-year-old Sycamore trees and found modern materials it was a celebration of the creative vitality of this area of Wiltshire best known as the Cranborne Chase.
In 2015, Messums Wiltshire invited Judy to show in the 13th century monastic barn recently restored into a multi-disciplinary contemporary arts centre. After visiting Messums Wiltshire in the autumn of 2015 and again in late winter 2017, Judy was struck by the spirit of the land and the immensity of the barn and its thatched roof. She returned to the US with hundreds of pictures of the barn, Salisbury Cathedral and the surrounding landscape from which to begin working.
Located 15 miles from Stonehenge, archaeologists continue to discover prehistoric sites of worship in the area surrounding Tisbury where Messums Wiltshire is based. The chance to respond to such a spiritually fertile area has inspired Pfaff to make a work as audacious in scale as it is in concept. Having never shown in England, the exhibition was a homecoming to both the literal land of England and the cultural heritage and ancestry it embodies.
Judy Pfaff, now in her 70’s, hails a career that has seen her rise from being a teaching assistant in the Design Department of Yale University to holding over 100 solo exhibitions and installations in galleries and museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo and the Guggenheim. Group exhibitions including those with Eva Hesse and the rising stars of New York in the 1970s and 1980s. This was the first solo exhibition Judy had held in the UK.
Strang Farm is a beautiful family-run site offering accommodation and office spaces within converted barns, all of which have been exquisitely restored to the highest possible standard. The portfolio includes Sheepwell, a five bedroom luxury barn with a mezzanine floor; The Calf Shed, a fully accessible modern studio with stunning views and Chestnut Tree Yard, a collection of 16th Century agricultural barns, which are in the process of being restored into beautiful studios and flexible workspaces available to rent and hire.