Compton Verney has something for everyone.
If you are into high art, then there’s a top-notch gallery based in a Georgian mansion with both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions on display.
There’s also the most wonderful lake and park to explore. Landscaped by the famous ‘Capability’ Brown, it features his trademark sweeping natural parkland panoramas which did so much to make English parks famous across Europe in the eighteenth century.
Looking across the lake from the gallery you will notice a strange multi-coloured dome on the edge of the water.
Not exactly in keeping.
Then again, may be it is.
This is The Clearing. It’s a multi-coloured dome structure (a geodesic dome is the proper term) and is part of a Lottery funded arts project run by artists Alex Hartley and Tom James.
The idea is to create a self-sufficient living environment. Each week different caretakers live in the dome to get a taste of what life might be like should our modern way of life collapse after the onset of climate change.
In this sense it’s both futuristic and primitive, giving those living there a glimpse into how to survive without the trappings of modern life.
As part of the project, the artists have also been running workshops on different aspects of self-sufficiency.
This summer we’ve attended two. One on how to keep chickens which involved learning the basics and helping to build a chicken coop and run led by Jacqueline from the warwickshirechickencoop, and one on making soaps and balms with beeswax led by Catherine from honeybeebeautiful.
Other courses include harnessing the wind, making mead and preparing medicines.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trips to the Clearing. It’s a fantastic setting on the edge of the lake. The workshops gave us some practical tips and advice, as well as a great sense of wellbeing and contentment. It was just lovely listening and taking part in the workshops based in such a fantastic setting.
But is this art?
It’s certainly very different from the more formal and traditional offerings inside the main Compton Verney gallery. But what’s on display there and what people experience in The Clearing are linked.
Art is all about giving visitors new visual and sensory experiences, taking them away from their ‘normal’ everyday life, and stimulating new thoughts and feelings which makes them look at life just a little bit differently.
Through its galleries and superb parklands Compton Verney does this well. The Clearning is just a different way of doing the same thing. It also widens the appeal of art, drawing new people in who would otherwise show little interest.
It’s also a lot of fun. It’s open until the end of the year. You should pay it a visit.