XXX by acclaimed artist Steve Messam is the inaugural exhibition at Borders Sculpture Park, a new venue for contemporary open-air sculpture, within the grounds of Mellerstain House in Scotland. Comprising of three large-scale temporary installations the project brings high quality, engaging and innovative artworks to the Scottish Borders, an area not known for its innovative art programme.

Messam’s fascinating site-specific works explore a sense of space, presence and place, each one working with the surrounding environment to disrupt and transform the way we perceive it. By integrating inflatable, fabric sculptures directly into the buildings and landscape, the artist seeks to uncover some of the many layers of narrative bound up in the sprawling estate. Creating a true visual spectacle, the three works are joyful and uplifting. They are celebrations of form rather than being symbolic or having inherent meaning, and have to be directly experienced in the environment to be appreciated fully.

Combining historic features with bold, contemporary sculptural practice on a vast scale, Messam establishes a lively dialogue between past and present, adding an unexpected and temporary new dimension to familiar vistas and architecture.

All white in colour, the works are a contemporary echo of the marble sculptures that were originally envisaged to adorn Mellerstain’s grounds. Though the two buildings within which the works sit might now appear like follies in a state of partial ruin, they did originally serve a purpose, although some mystery surrounds their precise use at certain times and it is not entirely certain what is apocryphal. Steve Messam extends this uncertain history with new narratives, playing with their inherent sense of magic.
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While ‘Scattered’ on the lake is an immediately visually arresting centrepiece or eye catcher, the other two pieces ‘Pointed’ and ‘Towered’ are more hidden and must be discovered on a walk through the grounds, into the beautiful, secluded glade, making the whole experience something of an unfolding journey.

‘Scattered’ is a series of spheres created by Messam that appear to float like huge, opaque bubbles on the surface of the lake, punctuating one of the most known and impressive views in a sweeping line from the main house across to the Hundy Mundy folly on the horizon, and offering new views and perspectives. Between two and four metres in diameter, these pure white shapes disrupt the wide-open space of the water and play with its scale, surface and light, bringing a sense of scale to the landscape.

‘Pointed’ sits within the former gatehouse and Pekingese stud and fills the void of the building, extending out from the long absent pitched roof that the inflatable form itself mimics. From this re-imagined roofline 28 dynamic, elongated peaks rise over three metres into the air, reminiscent of a starburst or a stylized explosion frozen in time. ‘Towered’ emerges from the curved walls of the ruin of the old laundry near the beck, its column-like forms standing over eight metres high.

XXX – a trio of architectural interventions, is open now till 11 September.
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