Uppark’s intriguing past inspires today's artists

This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

Latest update 02.06.2014 17:28

Unravelling Uppark, supported by Arts Council England, showcases the work of leading artists inspired by Uppark’s elegant Georgian interiors, sumptuous Grand Tour collection and larger than life historical characters.

Artist Steven Follen has created delicate origami miniature boats, made from folded metal sheets and filled with spices, to echo Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh’s connections with the exotic East India Company over two hundred years ago. The boat flotilla winds its way across the floor of the Little Parlour, while the scent of spices gently fills the room.

Scandalous behaviour

In the dining room, video artist Jini Rawlings pays homage to the story of Emma Hart, later to become Lady Hamilton - Lord Nelson’s lover. A member of the wild entourage that surrounded Uppark’s 19th century ‘playboy’ owner Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, Emma allegedly danced naked on Uppark’s dining table for Sir Harry and his guests. Jini has used a series of mirrors and images to reflect on Emma’s unfolding story of fame and misfortune.

In 1825, the seventy-year-old Sir Harry scandalized society once again by marrying his twenty-year-old dairymaid Mary Ann Bullock. This union has inspired A Milkmaid’s Song, artist Gen Doy’s captivating sound piece, set in the very dairy where Sir Harry first heard Mary Ann singing.

Gothic horror and a famous fire

A more sinister recollection is revealed in Cityscape – a landscape by Helen Felcey and Alice Kettle influenced by science fiction writer HG Wells’ novel The Time Machine. HG Wells spent much of his boyhood at Uppark, where his mother was the housekeeper, and the grim servants’ tunnels are said to have influenced this famous gothic horror novel.

Ceramicist Zoe Hillyard was captivated by the story of Uppark’s devastating fire in 1989 and its phoenix-like rise from the ashes. In the Red Drawing Room, visitors can enjoy her hand-stitched fabric-covered patchwork ceramics – beautiful vases and tea bowls celebrating the skilled craftspeople that brought Uppark back to life.

Goddesses and nymphs

Unravelling Uppark extends into the ground with wire sculptures created by Agnes Jones. Inspired by the vivid stories of Uppark’s female residents, these artworks on the house’s portico represent Mary Ann Bullock as Io, an ancient Greek nymph seduced by Zeus, and Emma Hart as the goddess of prosperity, Euthenia.

In the stables Caitlin Heffernan’s installation, created using materials rescued from Uppark’s great fire including horse’s tack, jewels and fabrics, explores the contrast between the privileged lives of people like Sir Harry, and those of the grooms and stable boys who worked there.

Discover these, and other beautiful and thought-provoking artworks at Unravelling Uppark, from 4 May to 2 November (closed Friday and Saturday). For more information on Uppark House and Garden click here, or call 01730 825415.