Unravelling Uppark, until 2nd November 2014
This is a really good way to bring both the story of the house and contemporary works together. The Unravelled artists are specifically commissioned to create works that help weave both architectural and human strands. At Uppark, which is their third and final project with the National Trust, they have much to focus upon, especially the story of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh who inherited Uppark in 1774. A bit of a lad he was a friend of the Prince Regent, and part of his household for a time was Emma Hart, later the celebrated Emma Hamilton more better known as Lord Nelson’s paramour. In his middle years Sir Harry settled down only to upset the apple cart, aged seventy, by marrying his twenty year old dairy maid Mary Anne Bullock.
The first thing that you see as you approach the house’s portico is Agnes Jones’s two iron ‘line drawing’ sculptures Io (Mary Ann Bullock) the Greek nymph who was seduced by Zeus and Euthenia (Emma Hart) the goddess of Prosperity.
Visitors are recommended to visit the dairy and stables first. In the dairy you will hear Gen Doy’s A Milkmaid’s Song inspired by Sir Harry’s marriage to Mary Ann Bullock.
The stables are the site for Caitlin Heffernan’s Remnants which subtly contrasts the difference between the landed classes and their stable hands using various pieces of tack, hay, jewels and also pieces of fabric retrieved after Uppark’s horrific fire in 1989.
Thus we are introduced to another thread of the story for glorious Uppark, which had survived relatively unchanged since the 18th century, was hit by a disastrous fire in August 1989. The roof and ceilings were destroyed but fortunately not the walls and even more so much of the plasterwork and woodwork survived. Many of the ground floor rooms’ contents were saved too. The National Trust’s restoration of the building is a triumph.
In the Staircase Hall Matt Smith’s Garniture: The Bullock Buckets, recalls the period fire buckets in the house and brings together the ideas of the Fire, Mary Anne Bullock’s being sent to Paris to be taught how to be a lady and the Sèvres porcelain collected by Sir Harry.
The story of Emma dancing naked for Sir Harry and his guests is cleverly recreated by video artist Jini Rawlings in Amy, Emily, Emma and the Four Times of Day (Vernet) using a series of mirrors on the Dining Room table which may even be the very one on which Emma danced.
Dish of the day: chicken in a basket, the creation of Robert Cooper and Stella Harding, is a large ceramic dish of woven basket design, whose surface is covered with collaged imagery and interwoven text that echoes the story of Emma and Mary Anne in that it highlights modern day exploitation of young people.
In the Little Parlour Sir Harry’s father Sir Mathew Fetherstonhaugh provides the inspiration for the artist Steven Follen’s Trade a flotilla of origami toy boats. Made from metal sheets and lined with gold leaf and filled with spices which represent Sir Matthew’s links with the East India Company and shipping.
The story of the fire and the subsequent restoration was the basis for Zoë Hillyard’s Salvage a group of signature hand-stitched patchwork ceramics in the Red Drawing Room which sit well with the house’s own ceramic collection.
In the Tapestry room you come across Simon Ryder’s Quartet four crystal blocks of glass laser-etched with rising and falling notes of birdsong reflecting the birdsong you can hear in the garden.
Downstairs in the basement you will find Andrew Burton’s Vessels made up from tiny ceramic bricks. They evoke enigmatically the barrels and drinking vessels that were used in the house.
Last and certainly not least is The House of Eloi the creation of Alice Kettle and Helen Felcey. It adds another strand to Uppark’s story since H G Wells’ books The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man are the source for this imagined world of mutant creatures that people the Doll’s House Room. You may ask why H G Wells? The answer is simply that his mother was housekeeper at Uppark in the late 19th century. The servants’ tunnels are also thought to have been an inspiration for Wells’ books.
I have long wanted to visit Uppark and never had the opportunity to do so but I was intrigued to come and see Unravelling Uppark. I am so delighted that I waited for what was a really beautiful experience and I hope that you will feel the same when you go there. Like me you may think that some of the contemporary works should remain.
Uppark House and Garden
South Harting, Petersfield GU31 5QR
Unravelled at Uppark, 2014. Architecture and Interior Photography by Jim Stephenson