Exhibition gives Fresh Take on Burghley House

From left, curator Sam Roddan with artists, Anita Bruce, Sue Shields, Kathryn Parsons and Jason Duckmanton.
From left, curator Sam Roddan with artists, Anita Bruce, Sue Shields, Kathryn Parsons and Jason Duckmanton.
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Burghley House - often called England’s greatest Elizabethan treasure house - has a new collection of artistic gems.

Fresh Take, an exhibition of contemporary art which opened on Monday, gives visitors a new insight into the heritage surrounding them and complements the existing art collection.

It is the work of six local artists who have been inspired by the history and architecture of the great house to create stunning new pieces in a variety of mediums.

The project - funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Creative Peterborough - is the brainchild of Stamford-based conceptual sculptor and freelance art consultant Sam Roddan, who founded Art Pop-Up in 2011. It was Sam who presented Stamford’s Commemorative Book of Messages to The Queen on her Diamond Jubilee visit.

“I approached the house with my idea last year and Miranda Rock (Burghley House director) was very open to it. Stamford and Burghley are so culturally rich and I thought how wonderful to give local artists a chance to create something contemporary to complement all that history and tradition,” she said.

The six artists - Anita Bruce, Jason Duckmanton, Lindsey Holmes, Kathryn Parsons, Stuart Payn and Sue Shields - have been working in residence at Burghley for several months. Their work, which is all for sale, is on display until the house closes in November.

* Sue Shields has produced a collection of copper and pewter pieces encased in resin, each with a story to tell. One is based on a portrait of Lady Georgiana Cecil who died aged seven in 1623, one on Olympic gold medallist David Cecil and another linking William Cecil, the first Lord Burghley, to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Entitled A Taste Of The Incredible, they are displayed in the Old Kitchen, which has its own collection of copper and pewter kitchenware. Sue’s other work, entitled Wanderlust, is five paper ribbon maps suspended from a window of the Pagoda Room. Exploring links with travel and tourism, each is about a journey to or from Burghley, such as by Elizabeth 1, John Clare and a recent child.

* Kathryn Parsons has created two pairs of sugar shoes, displayed on the Roman Staircase which leads to roof turrets where Tudor guests snacked on expensive sugar sculptures called subtleties. A small red and white spotted pair represent William Cecil’s daughter Anne, whom he called Tannakin and who caught smallpox, preventing Queen Elizabeth I from making an expensively planned visit - she never did see the house. The second pair, gold and flower-bedecked, commemorate Cottage Countess Sarah Hoggins, a Shropshire peasant girl married at 16 in 1790 without knowing her husband was the errant heir. Once living in the house, she suffered miserably as the aristocracy shunned her. She died aged 24. The staircase, well-worn from countless shoes over the centuries, would have been regularly climbed by both Tannakin and Sarah. Kathryn calls her pieces Health, Wealth & Subtleties. It took her around 200 hours to make them.

* Lindsey Holmes has four tricorn hats arranged totem-pole style in the Billiard Room, representing animal pseudonyms of members of The Honourable Order of Little Bedlam, the gentlemen’s secret drinking club founded by the 5th Earl in the 17th century.

* Street artist Stuart Payn’s Calligraffik Marquetry Cabinet in the Black and Yellow Bedroom showcases a collision of historic and modern contexts. He mixes odd animal caricatures, found throughout the house, with graffiti to create innovative artforms.

* Digital artist Jason Duckmanton’s Danse Macabre Zoetrope in the Marquetry Room is a wheel of life decorated with skulls. It can be spun by visitors to activate animation frames and explores the fragillty of life in historic times and the universality of death.

* Textile artist Anita Bruce has the largest and smallest exhibits. Her Golden Canary is a tiny knitted gold wire bird bsed on a carving and presented on a cushion by the Jewel Closet in the 1st George Room. Canaries were once kept in cages in the Great Hall. Trophy Birds, on the Hell Staircase, is a collection of hanging silk print plumes based on pheasant and woodcock feathers. It represents Burghley’s former courtyard aviary and the opulence of its hunting history.

An artists’ talks evening is on September 26 and includes a tour of the house. Tickets at £12.50 must be pre-booked. Workshops will be held on October 26 and November 2.

More details from www.burghley.co.uk or email curator Sam at info@artpopup.co.uk

Anita and Sue are also artists-in-residence for the Helpston-based Langdyke Countryside Trust.