Sunday, 10 July 2016

Nicky Wilson - Jupiter Artland

As the name implies, once you step through the gates of Jupiter Artland, you are in another world. While Edinburgh city centre is a building site driven by a money-driven cartel of property developers, hoteliers and supermarket chains in collusion with the local authorities, a half hour bus ride out of town to West Lothian offers sanctuary of the most imaginative kind.

For a decade now, Jupiter Artland's science-fiction styled sculptured landscape has played host to a series of temporary and permanent architectural interventions that allow contemporary artists' work to breathe in a way that the restraints of a walled institution wouldn't allow for.

Beyond the verdant greens and lush blue pools of Cell of Life, American architecture theorist and critic Charles Jencks' manufactured landform that greets visitors, are more than thirty permanent works. These include piece by the likes of Nathan Coley, Andy Goldsworthy, Antony Gormley, Jim Lambie and grand-daddy of environmental interventionists, Ian Hamilton Finlay.

When the Foundation opened for this year's season in May, it saw the permanent collection joined by two new additions. Animitis is French sculptor Christian Boltanski's first outdoor work in the UK, while Scottish artist Alec Finlay has made a new orchard-based work, A Variety of Cultures.

Temporary works include Piss Flowers by the late Helen Chadwick, songbirds creating music with electric guitars by French artist, Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, in From Here to Ear, and a new floor-based piece by Glasgow-based Hayley Tompkins.

Jupiter Artland was created and is privately owned and curated by art collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson in the hundred-acre grounds of their home in seventeenth century Jacobean manor house, Bonnington House. As Jupiter Artland, the grounds have been open to the public since 2009, since when it has developed an expansive programme which has tapped into an increasing profile for sound and environmental-based art.

For the Wilsons, Jupiter Artland is clearly a labour of love, which, despite its non-institutional status, has been shortlisted for the 2016 Museum of the Year Award.

“It was our dream,” says Nicky Wilson of her front garden. “We couldn't just keep the door locked and keep all this to ourselves, and since we opened it quite literally has grown. Charles Jencks' works took five years to grow, and that was a real test of our mettle.”

With an ongoing emphasis on showcasing younger artists alongside more seasoned practitioners, Wilson resists theming her choices, although she does concede that this year's work “all has a sense of humour and slight subversion of the norm, but in a way that audiences can continue to engage with.”

A new indoor gallery space was completed in 2015, while an ongoing Learning Programme is becoming an increasingly key component of the Jupiter Artland ethos.

“There is a huge need for cultural engagement with schools and mental health groups,” Wilson says. “Art is a very valuable part of life's richness. One thing property developers never consider is how people relate to their environment. What we do at Jupiter is continue to honour and beautify the landscape in a way that people can engage with art at the lightest level.”

Wilson's personal connection to her programmme at Jupiter Artland is plain.

“I was taught by Helen Chadwick,” she says of the Turner nominated artist, “and seeing Christian Boltanski's early exhibition when I was a young artist in London completely changed my world, and I want Jupiter Artland to be a Wonderland which everyone can explore. We live in the middle of it, and I live and breathe it. I go to bed looking at the sculptures, and we are absolutely rooted in it. It is our life.

“We're not a huge, heavy institution. By making it that it becomes about joy and community. We want people to be happy looking at the work, and to be able to look at it in a way that isn't about institutional pomposity. Jupiter Artland is meant to be magic. That's all we wanted. We need a bit of Wonderland in people's lives.”

Jupiter Artland is open to the public every day throughout July and August, and from Thursday to Sunday in May, June and September, both from 10am to 5pm until September 25th.www.jupiterartland.org
The List Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, July 2016

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