Peter Baird interviews Helen Morton
For our occasional series exploring the attraction of placing sculpture in private spaces, we spoke to Turrill Garden Treasurer and Emeritus Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, Helen Morton about her extensive collection.
TSG: When did you first start buying sculpture?
HM: I bought a couple of sculptures of cranes in 2004 to place next to the pond at the end of my garden, in an effort to deter herons from coming to take the fish. They weren’t very effective at keeping the herons away but I got used to having them there and liked seeing them which gave me the idea of looking for something specifically for the garden.
So, I then bought my first “proper” piece of garden sculpture in 2007 at the Hampton Court Flower Show which was an Opalstone abstract from Zimbabwe. It arrived on a wooden base which eventually disintegrated and has been replaced by a base made of Portland stone. I placed it in the centre of an archway over which I was growing a Clematis montana.
TSG: In the fifteen years since then, how many pieces have you added to your collection?
HM: I’ve added a further 9, giving me a collection of 12 pieces which are made of various materials including Portland stone, Opalstone, Springstone, Stainless steel, cast iron and aluminium. Two are kinetic sculptures which move around in the wind, which I really enjoy.
TSG: And what is your favourite piece?
HM: I think my favourite piece is one of the kinetic sculptures called Parasol by Richard Cresswell. It consists of 7 fans with vanes on top of metal supports coming out of a central stem and can be static if there is no wind, move gently if there is a breeze or spin round quite fast in a strong wind. A close second favourite is Fish on a Unicycle by Daren Greenhow which does exactly what it says with a fish riding a unicycle and juggling three metal balls. It makes me smile every time I see it! And of course it makes me think of the saying about ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle ….’! (Irina Dunn 1970)
With our most grateful thanks to Helen, we will post the second half of our interview in the coming weeks.