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18 Oct 2022

Paul Vanstone - Autumn Sculpture Trail

Paul Vanstone is a British sculptor known for his work carving sculpture from stone, the nature of the material dictating how each piece evolves. His fascination is with the hardness and light reflecting qualities of marble and how this can be transformed to portray the curvature of the human body and the delicacy and flow of covering cloth.

Profile Faces, Paul Vanstone

These vast heads, at over 3.5m tall and close to 10T in weight, achieve a subtly and fragility that belie their size.  The apparent softness is testament to the artist’s understanding of the material, in certain lights the edges appear to glow as though carved in alabaster.

Marshall Murray suggested that Garrison Square might be a space that would benefit significantly from large sculptures.  Monumental sculptures can often play with our perception of space, these two profiles make the square seem more spacious as a result their installation.

While being the epitome of luxurious materials, marble is also surprisingly green – requiring minimal additional materials and lasting hundreds of years.  Paul works closely with the quarrymen to use blocks in the most efficient manner possible, creating smaller sculptures from the block offcuts and donating smaller pieces of stone to younger artists to practise their craft.

Tunisian Black & Gold Torsos, Paul Vanstone

Paul spent many years working for Anish Kapoor, the knowledge of how stone seams break was learned over many years of carving.  This enables him to take a form as simple as these abstract torsos, and imbue them with colour using nothing other than the breaking of these seams.  Shapes emerge from the stone, the sweep of a hem, the line of a shoulder.

The choice to install these stone pieces was the result of a desire to reflect the sense of luxury and opulence of Chelsea Barracks, while introducing softer lines and a feminine influence to the clean lines of the planting.  There was also a need to avoid clashing with Black Palm in the neighbouring bed.  Curation requires consideration of nearby influences, be they your house, significant trees or important views.

Senator, Paul Vanstone

The view between these two buildings is one of the most striking of the whole site.  The view across Whistler Square to the beautifully framed spire of St. Barnabus is spectacular, yet sadly often overlooked.  Sculpture is brilliant at forcing us to pause, stand in a certain position and look in a specific direction. 

In this case this meant pulling people in from the road to see this huge marble carved in rolls of folding cloth, a semi-figurative piece that feels at once both highly contemporary and yet traditional at the same time.  At night the nearby streetlight will pour shadows across the face, and in direct sunlight it will illuminate the winter months.

By placing it at the rear of the path viewers are encourage to walk up to see the face at close range, Paul’s other white marble sculpture Carrara Head was then placed within the same sightline to draw them up Bourne Walk. 

Carrara Head, Paul Vanstone

The connection between pieces is important in any curation.  For Chelsea Barracks, where moving people around space was such a core part of the project, this became paramount.  Marshall Murray looked at the key points of ingress; especially the Chelsea Bridge Road entrances and the access from Raneleigh Grove.  Seeing how Senator would draw people in from the roadside, how to then encourage them to move through the site was encouraged in two ways.  The first, following the arm of this monumental piece towards Mulberry Square, the second, seeing this bright Carrara face watching them from the end of the path.

Playing with scale and repetition are fantastic tools when designing how you want people to move around your gardens.  This simple, classical yet contemporary, serene face gives context and scale to Bourne Walk, and acts as a draw object to encourage visitors to walk towards this bright focal point.  As they do the far subtler forms by Walter Bailey emerge from the trees.  This combination of the noticed and unnoticed can be a powerful way to draw attention and is a technique that can be seen as far back as the buildings of Ancient Rome.

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