The Revelation of the Head | Closing Statement

Our exhibition The Revelation of the Head closed on 8 July with record numbers of visitors, rendering it the unexpected blockbuster of our summer programming. exhibition. Running from 26 May – 8 July this exhibition featured seminal works by artists including Elisabeth Frink, Gavin Turk and Antonio Canova. The Revelation of the Head encompassed artefacts from ancient Greece and Egypt to contemporary depictions such as painter Jonathan Yeo’s first foray into sculpture – a large scale bronze self-portrait, Homage to Paolozzi – created from an ingenious combination of virtual reality and advanced 3D scanning.

These cross-temporal, cross-cultural heads were shown in our medieval, 140ft long barn in two rows, facing inwards towards each other. They filled the length of this magnificent space, evoking the arcades of classical Greece and Rome. The standout sculptures from this time period were a Roman marble Portrait of Emperor Antonius Pius, created in 2nd century CE, Head of Male made in 550-500 BCE Egypt and an Italian, 17th century terracotta Head of a Man.

Sean Henry ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’

Contemporary works worth drawing attention to were the first sculpted head conceived in virtual reality and Keith Coventry’s gold-plated Supermodel (Kate Moss) 2000 for their novel takes on the human form, interested in reworking the traditions of certain materials as well as being inspired by modernism and minimalism, first pioneered by sculptors Alexander Calder and Alberto Giacometti.

We are pleased to announce that the philosophy of this wonderful exhibition will be reflected by our future programming. Later on this year we will be hosting a solo show by the late British sculptor Brian Taylor. Taylor, who died in 2013, was an extraordinarily gifted artist, fascinated by human and animal forms. Taylor only rarely exhibited his sculptures publicly since the early 1960s and they remain best known to a select circle of friends, patrons and enthusiasts.

Kevin Francis Gray ‘Ballerina Bust’ & ‘Temporal Sitter Bust’

This future exhibition will provide the opportunity to view important works from early in his career such as the head of Boy from Antigua, 1958 (the life-size won the Rome Prize) and Michele – Nefertiti Head (circa 1985) as well as those which are much later: Gabriel aged Seventeen (2013) and Bella aged Fourteen (2004). In 1998 Taylor was elected a member of the Society of Portrait Sculptors and the Royal Society of British Sculptors. Here the intention is to tell his story from the context of those who found that past a daunting exterior was a man of talent and gifted ability to teach.

Artists exhibited in The Revelation of the Head were: Christy Symington, David Mach, Elisabeth Frink, Emily Young, Jonathan Yeo, Laurence Edwards, Sean Henry, John Davies, Glynn Williams, Brian Taylor, Nuria Torres, Keith Coventry, Abigail Fallis, Ralph Brown, Ellen Christiansen, Gavin Turk, Peter Burke and Kevin Francis Gray, Eric Kennington, Antonio Canova, Simone Bianco and Stephen Pettifer.

TALK: with artists and furniture designer Christopher Kurtz


Saturday 21 June, 11:30am,  free event  RSVP

We are delighted to welcome artist and designer Christopher Kurtz to the gallery. Kurtz’ work is currently being exhibited at the V&A and will come here in August as part of our Material Wood: Art & Design series of exhibitions and events. Join us for this opportunity to hear Christopher introduce his work and explain his thought processes and practice. Christopher follows on a tradition, started by artist and friend Judy Pfaff, as a representative of the Hudson River group of artists coming to share their work here in Wiltshire. Along with his mentor Martin Puryear, Kurtz is one of the most pre-eminent contemporary artists working in wood today.

Christopher Kurtz (born 1975) grew up in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. He studied sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute (1994-95), Landscape Architecture at The GSD at Harvard University (Career Discovery Program) (’98) and received a BFA in sculpture from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in Alfred, New York (’98).

After college, he went on to work as the studio assistant to artist Martin Puryear. While working with Puryear, Christopher refined his woodworking skills and began maturing as an artist.

In 2005 Christopher set up his own studio in the Hudson Valley of New York State. Kurtz has always had a passion for furniture and began experimenting with design. In 2008 he expanded his studio practice to include studio furniture in addition to sculpture, where the two practices blur the lines between functional work and poetic conceptual statements.

Christopher lives and works in the Hudson Valley, New York.

EVENT: World Cup Programming: England vs Croatia


Wednesday 11 July, 7pm, free admission

Dare we dream…?

We think so, and will be showing England’s progress from here onwards, starting with the Semi Final this Wednesday from 6pm for 7pm kick off.

Celebrate the England team making their own history and with seating/standing for 250 people and its own bar the atmosphere will be really special.

We are open from 6pm for the preview of Simon Carter’s landscape paintings in the Long Gallery so do come along early and enjoy the exhibition first.

TALK: ‘A Life in Design’ with Chris Eckersley

Wednesday 8 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Chris Eckersley is an artist and designer from Birmingham who originally studied Sculpture at Gloucestershire College of Art, and subsequently Design at Central Saint Martins where he became a Visiting Tutor. His work covers drawing, three-dimensional design and object-making, research into measurement and proportion, sculpture, and designs for furniture. Chris is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Extra Ordinary Objects.

Chris will tell the story of the ‘Bodging Project’ that he set up in 2010. This was a back-to-basics research trip for a group of designers, looking at the ancient art of ‘bodging’ (a.k.a. greenwood chair-making). They spent a week in the ash woods of Herefordshire, then took the results to the Milan Furniture Fair, and were then inundated with enquiries from manufacturers and the press.

From this woodland origin the project – like Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival – went electric. Out went the pole-lathes, the draw-horses, and unseasoned timber, and in came power tools, off-the-shelf dowel, and workshop offcuts. The project is based very definitely in contemporary design and not, as is sometimes thought, in craft revival. The one lesson learnt in the woods was the importance of design-through-making – ‘bodge-thinking’ if you like – and it is this coupled with a sort of art-school experimentation that fuels the project and keeps it moving forward.

Chris’ illustrated talk will also introduce his 2.5 day chairmaking workshop here at Messums Wiltshire, a design-led making course that will see all participants guided through the process of designing and making their own ‘Wiltshire’ chair to take home at the end of the course.

WORKSHOP: Make a ‘Wiltshire Chair’ with Chris Eckersley

Thursday 9 – Saturday 11 August, £385  Bookings

Making is thinking; process is learning.

Understand materials and evolve a design with two of our leading makers on a two and a half day chair-making course where you will design and be guided through the making of your own chair out of Ash to take home with you. Dave Green, master craftsman and founder of chairmaking company Sitting Firm will join us on the final day to pick a winning design which will be exhibited on a plinth in our Material Wood show and may even go in to production and sold through the gallery.

After a short introduction to traditional construction methods, Chris Eckersley will facilitate a workshop of design-through-making based on the idea of the ‘Wiltshire Chair’. In fact there has never, as yet, been any such thing as a Wiltshire chair, but there easily could have because very many areas of Britain have a distinct design that is particular to their region. These have been described by Chris as ‘Slow Chairs’ and he says:

‘Slow’ of course means the opposite of ‘fast’. If fast food is homogenised rubbish, then slow food celebrates local traditions and diversity. Instead of a world where everything is the same everywhere, Slow stands up for the handmade, the regional, the authentic, the sustainable. It means knowing where produce comes from, and no surprise horse meat!. Slow means co-operation, not competition. If you think Slow means slow-witted, think again.

Join others of all experience levels to learn and make with one of the country’s most creative minds and makers, on a course which treads a fine line between craft and art-school experimentation.

The course starts on Thursday morning at 10:00am. Coffee, lunch and afternoon tea included in the price for Thursday and Friday.

Recommended for all skill levels and age 18 and upwards. Places are limited to 8, so please do book early.

Accommodation available separately.

Chris Eckersley is an artist and designer from Birmingham who originally studied Sculpture at Gloucestershire College of Art, and subsequently Design at Central Saint Martins where he became a Visiting Tutor.

His work covers drawing, three-dimensional design and object-making, research into measurement and proportion, sculpture, and designs for furniture.
Chris is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Extra Ordinary Objects.

CHILDREN’S WORKSHOP: Making Wooden Propeller Flyers

Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 August, 10:30am – 12:30pm, £35  Bookings

Make a hand powered vintage propeller toy with their inventor, Wiltshire woodsman Dom Parish.  Modelled after the natural flying capacities of sycamore seeds, the propeller or ‘spinstar’ appeals in a tangible way to the child in all of us.

Learn how to steam bend wooden components into a blade, assemble them to a wooden shaft, colour them with lacquer and brand them with your own design.

At the end the course we will all perfect our flying techniques in front of the barn.

Suitable for age 8 years upwards. Limited to 8 spaces so please book early!


PREVIEW: Private View for the Exhibition Material Wood

Saturday 11 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Join us for a private view of our annual Material Wood exhibition and festival. Wander through two gallery spaces of paintings, photography, sculpture and design by some of the most of the most exciting artists working in this medium.

Our third annual celebration and most extensive to date with a focus on wood as a material used in design and fine art. A month of courses and talks for all ages taking in boats to benches, conservation and the celebration of the handmade.  The series includes a chairmaking course where participants design a ‘Wiltshire’ chair and learn how to construct it. The designs will then be judged by craftsman and company founder of chairmakers Sitting Firm, Dave Green. The winning design will be exhibited on a plinth as part of our Material Wood show and may even go in to production and sold through the gallery.  The winner will be announced at the private view party.

Artists and makers including Thomas Heatherwick, Gareth Neal, Chris Eckersley, Richard Woods, Rob and Nick Carter and Alastair Mackie lead a survey of contemporary making practices in wood, with a focus on chair design. Henry Brudenell-Bruce’s colossal, outdoor chair epitomises the spirit of this ambitious show.

Both bars will be open and a selection of charcuterie served.

CHILDREN’S WORKSHOP: Make A Latticework Lampshade

Sunday 12 August, 10:30am – 12:30pm, £35  Bookings

Learn how to weave birch plywood into an attractive lampshade to take home for your bedroom.

Assemble plywood strips into panels and rivet them into drum shapes. These will then be finished with either a base for a wastepaper basket or a hanging light shade fitting.

Suitable for ages 8 years upwards. Only 8 spaces available so please book early!


Wednesday 15 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Hattie AKA ‘THIS GIRL MAKES’ is a young designer-maker with a love for natural materials. Her work encourages others to assert more value on curiosity and play through the objects they use, as she strives to redefine traditional archetypes of furniture in a playful and honest way. Hattie’s THIS GIRL MAKES blog and workshops, her craft, and public speaking provide opportunities to pass on practical skills and knowledge, as well as opening up new channels for discussion.  She will also be running two-hour children’s workshops on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 August in making wooden stools as part of our Wood Festival.

Hattie was selected for the LINLEY Summer School 2017, was shortlisted for the 2017 Wood Awards Student. She champions women’s roles in the crafts and furniture making industries. A must for aspiring makers of all genders and ages.

TALK: Head, Heart, Hand, a Boatbuilder’s Story

Wednesday 22 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Award-winning master craftsman and boatbuilder Colin Henwood has over 40 years experience of building, restoring and caring for wooden boats and will be running a two-day course at Messums Wiltshire on 23 & 24 August  in making a wooden canoe paddle from Ash.

Colin Henwood founded his boatyard, Henwood and Dean Boatbuilders, in 1982 specialising in restoring and building wooden Thames launches. The boatyard received many awards in the UK and abroad, and in 2014 Colin was awarded Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association. In October 2016 Colin handed the boatyard over to his team who are successfully continuing the tradition he began 35 years ago. Not one to retire, Colin has established a workshop at the Sylva Wood Centre where he is currently re-building a 1920 Thames motor canoe.

When time permits Colin writes for WaterCraft Magazine.

1 2 3 13