I was reflecting on the trend for outdoor living rooms. Frequently I see gardens landscaped with screens, water features and other random decorative elements that add form and structure and – let’s face it – are easier to look after than plants. But sculpture in your garden can add impact and lasting value in a way that factory made pieces simply cannot.
Outdoor sculpture has become associated with public commissions and unfortunately many controversies. But there is absolutely no reason not to consider it for your garden when you can find a work that speaks to you and for which you have the right spot.
Just as you want your art inside your home to both hold its own and harmonise with its surroundings, you want the display of sculpture in your garden to form an artistic whole. If your garden is arranged on classical or traditional lines, figurative sculptures or sculptures with symetrical proportions will look best. A garden of succulents – sculptural plants in their own right – could background a bold abstract form. Australian natives could go either way – but something too delicate might get completely lost against them.
Once you have decided on a piece, you then need to plan the installation. Consider the angle the work will be viewed from. Study how the sun will hit it and what shadows it will create. If it has empty spaces within it, how will they frame the landscape or garden? Some sculptures will point or direct the viewer’s gaze – so where will it (the gaze) go? Should it be lit so you can view it at night? (answer: preferably yes).
All of which is to say that a considerable amount of planning needs to happen before you commit. Larger pieces will have to be installed professionally and that means lifting equipment and ground preparation.
Note that sculptures made of metal and wood will cope with being outside with minimal maintenance. Stones such as marble or sandstone, being porous, may not be suitable long-term unless they have special treatment. Locating sculptures on or near water will present more challenges long term. Seek out expert advice to preserve your investment.
A sculpture in your garden has the potential to bring great joy and lasting inspiration. If you would like to discuss further, please do get in touch!
Some good places to see sculpture outdoors:-
National Gallery of Australia (ACT)
McClelland Sculpture Park (VIC)
Point Leo Sculpture Park (VIC)
Sculpture by the Sea (NSW and WA)
Swell Sculpture festival (QLD)
Australian Galleries Sculpture Park at Porcupine Ridge (VIC) – by appointment