I’m not an ‘arty-farty’ type nor a ‘culture vulture’, but Saturday’s visit to ‘Jupiter Artland’ (at Bonnington House, Kirknewton, 7 miles from Edinburgh) had me in awe and waxing lyrical about this glorious art-attraction, which husband and wife owners Robert and Nicky Wilson opened in 2009. Their choice of name ‘Jupiter’ (Roman god of sky, thunder and lightning / ruler over all the gods) may be a bit abstract, but it is a remarkable place where “art enriches land, and land enriches art”. It fosters happiness, creativity, enjoyment, deep thought, learning, therapy, even ‘healing’, and is well worth a visit.
Parents and wealthy art-lovers, Robert Wilson is a homeopath and Nicky a former art teacher. Now their 90-acre park, filled with outdoor artwork by leading sculptors, is one of five contenders for the UK’s best museum (sadly didn’t win). It’s great to see a neglected, industrial part of Scotland come alive in new ways (‘Little Sparta’ is the nearby 5-acre inspiration for Jupiter Artland). Jupiter’s a charity and all profits go into education and allowing thousands of school children connect with the park for free. Gates are open between May and September. It’s not cheap and you’re not allowed picnics, but under 5’s and disabled badge holders go free, and the staff, resident sheep and donkeys are very friendly.
Three of the art-features stick out for me:
1. ‘Weeping Girls’ by Laura Ford, drew out sympathy, followed by impatience that the 5 girls, having a ‘hissy-fit’ in the woods, won’t show their faces, which gave way to a smile at how these faded green, lifeless statues could summon such emotion.
2. ‘Love Bomb’ by Marc Quinn, a 12-metre-high orchid, looks hilariously out of place against the Lothian countryside and Scottish skyline. It’s bright and garish but, in my mind, contrasts beautifully with the torrent of bombs tearing up too many people and places in our world today.
3. ‘Life Mounds’ by Charles Jencks, presents ‘cells of life’ dividing, something I didn’t really ‘get’, but drawing me in by its ‘Telly-Tubby’ come ‘Middle Earth’ red bridge it turned me around and around in mesmerising climbs to the summit of each mound. The whole land and water-scape is thoroughly pleasing to the eye; I’m not surprised it took 8 years to create! It really gives the whole park that Wow-Factor as you enter Jupiter’s driveway!
The whole artland experience appealed to my whacky sense of humour. Art has a knack of exercising your soul and drawing you into the ‘more than meets the eye’ world of the spirit. We are made in the image of the great imagineer and creator God, and Jupiter Artland celebrates this creativity, all the more profound alongside the natural beauty of landscaped gardens, farmland and rugged Caledonian countryside.
As the Psalmist declares, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it!” Well done The Wilsons and all involved!!!