A curious sight has taken over one of Scotland’s finest historic grounds. Environmental artist Steve Messam crafted XXX, a series of site-specific installations that add modern whimsy to the late 18th-century Mellerstain House & Gardens. Commissioned as the first works of the newly opened Borders Sculpture Park, the giant inflatable artworks create dialogue between the past and present – from the enormous roof of spikes atop a decrepit gatehouse to the floating white spheres on a lake.
Messam’s XXX installation comprises three works, all of which are large-scale and made from inflated white fabric that reference the marble sculptures originally intended to decorate the Mellerstain grounds. Each site-specific intervention uses the element of surprise to disrupt the way viewers typically perceive the historic landscape.
‘Scattered,’ which comprises two to four-meter-wide inflated white spheres that bob along a lake, can be immediately seen and explored up close in canoes. In contrast, ‘Pointed’ and ‘Towered’ are placed within hidden, partially ruined buildings and must be discovered on a walk through the grounds. In Pointed, 28 giant inflated white spikes make up the re-imagined roofline of a former gatehouse. In contrast, Towered takes the shape of column-like forms that emerge from atop an old laundry ruin.
A statement on Steve Messam’s website reads: “Messam’s fascinating site-specific works explore a sense of space, presence and place, each one working with the surrounding environment to disrupt and transform the way we perceive it. By integrating inflatable, fabric sculptures very directly into the buildings and landscape, the artist seeks to uncover some of the many layers of narrative bound up in this magnificent estate. Creating a true visual spectacle, the three works are joyful and uplifting. They are celebrations of form rather than being symbolic or having inherent meaning, and have to be directly experienced in the environment to be appreciated fully.”
Images via Borders Sculpture Park