Leicester’s annual sculpture exhibition, held in the Harold Martin Botanical Gardens and organised by the University of Leicester, opened last week. It stays until September.
I visited yesterday, on a beautifully hot and sunny day when the sculptures were looking most photogenic. I was armed with a camera, short shorts and shades and discovered that this year was a pretty good crop. Sometimes this exhibition is patchy, and you tire of it quickly. Not this year.
The theme of this year’s collection was ‘Heart Head and Hands’, which led to a sometimes repetitive but usually thoughtful selection of pieces. The interpretation of that theme split into two basic camps: very figurative and expert sculpture, and more abstract attempts.
The carved limestone and marble heads and faces were all very beautiful, expertly made and you did stare into their eyes for quite a while until you could tear yourself away. But the one that had the most impact on our group was also one of the simplest.
A forest of tall bamboo sticks with note tags tied to them. Some note tags with quotes typed onto them. Some note tags handwritten, filled in by previous visitors. Some note tags plain. A pencil on the ground waiting for you.
People write fascinating things, and the comforting feeling of being slightly disguised in the bamboo thicket as you read them adds to the sensation. From the profound and religious (see the photos, below) to a lovers’ reprieve (“together, for now”) and a joke that occurred to at least three separate people and which each felt they had to commit to paper (“where are the runner beans?”)
It goes to show that the best and most affecting art is that which allows people to connect with each other. On a crass, or profound, level. It doesn’t matter. We just like to interact. It’s a very basic human instinct, and the greatest art understands that.
(And our contribution? We wrote a funny comment. Of course!)