Discovering the work of American light artist James Turrell over twenty years ago, had a transformative effect on collector David Cholmondeley. He commissioned a new work, Skyspace, in 2000, a site-specific installation within the grounds of his home at Houghton Hall in Norfolk which was to be the first new commission of an ambitious sculpture park programme.
Garden sheds and stately homes
A plan began to evolve for a large-scale Turrell exhibition that would span the breadth of the estate, from an eighteenth century folly, to the curved corridors of the Palladian house and even the original stableyard. With the opening of Lightscape this summer, the Marquis of Cholmondeley, has brought colour, light and even pyschedlia to the quiet Norfolk countryside.
Walking past the horse stalls and troughs of the stable quadrangle, leads to an immersive rose-coloured wall panel and a pale lemon light projection onto the stable wall and floor. Ducking beneath an avenue of pleached limes leads to an exhibition within the main house which reveals a comprehensive history of Turrell’s work; from his long-term excavation of Roden Crater in Arizona, to an an examination of his working processes, drawings and etchings, and new light installations.
Leaving the house leads you through the grounds of the new sculpture park; past Anya Gallacio’s sinuous copper beech hedge which leads to Rachel Whiteread’s garden shed and finally over the haha for a short woodland walk to St Elmo’s Breath, Turrell’s latest installation within an eighteenth century water tower.
A dark corridor leads to the interior, where the three of us sit pressed together in pitch darkness, waiting for our eyes to adjust. After several minutes, we begin to see glimmers of red, purple and lilac, and then to be able to make out the shapes of our hands and feet. The light had remained the same throughout; it was only our eyes that took time to adjust.
Running back outside, the final part of our circuit took in the shimmering slate Full Moon Circle by Richard Long, directly facing the Palladian façade of Houghton Hall before we raced to the walled Garden to take in the fire fountain by Jeppe Hein, which we must have seen a hundred times but never tire of looking at.