martes, 11 de mayo de 2010

Antonio Mari on show at the Sculpture Garden in Alfas del Pi

Sometimes, perhaps rarely, people have a vision. They not only see, they see through or beyond, allowing them to appreciate, often quite suddenly, a bigger space, more powerful than the immediate. Often it’s an artist that prompts such realisation. After all, it’s the artist’s role to help us see and, at the same time, to interpret. But alongside the art it’s sometimes also the setting that helps us to find an experience that lies beyond mere sight. Such a perfect blend of expression and content can be seen at the Jardin Escultorico in Alfas del Pi on Spain’s Costa Blanca, where works by Antonio Mari are on display.

Toni Mari is a Javea-born artist who sculpts in iron. His work is often highly naturalistic, with bulls, birds, fish and sheep and other farmyard animals featuring. But it is the human form that dominates his work, despite the fact that most of his figures are often more air than substance. His figures often stride like a Bocchioni or dance like a Degas. Charging bulls display a life-force. A strangely light iron bird seems ready to take flight. A Good Shepherd strides, superhuman in scale, across his meadow, his joints – characteristically for Mari – twisted tendons of metal. At the hip a lunch satchel swings, no doubt crammed with the cheese of his following sheep, whose delicate fleece is soldered springs. A welded dog eagerly awaits its master’s call.

A series of dancers add pure grace, their clothing and costume flowing into ribbons that do no more than punctuate their back-drop of sky. Though welded to their rusted plinths, surely they move, thus claiming their freedom of life.

But Antonio Mari’s work is also revelatory, an aspect that is only amplified by the setting. This special exhibition sits alongside a permanent sculpture collection, amongst which are other works by the same artist. The whole is set in the beautiful gardens of the Jardin Escultorico in Alfas del Pi, on Spain’s Costa Blanca.

Established in 1998, the gardens are the vision of Johanna Klein-Schreuder and Johannes Klein. Twelve years ago they bought a plot with some three hundred decrepit orange trees. Their unique vision was to create a sculpture garden, a space to exhibit human and natural creation both to contrast and complement. Now more than a decade into the project, Johanna and Johannes have achieved their goal. Their garden is worth a visit in itself. Though formally laid out, its main features are trees, themselves apparently living sculptures presenting a remarkable variety of shape and form, some in flower, some hardly yet in leaf.

Interspersed between these natural forms are works of contemporary sculptors, including other works by Toni Mari, including Love Dance and Man On Stilts. In the former, angels dance a round while in the latter a perfectly formed person who has hardly any physical form seems to stride through the garden at tree-top height.

Ausencia by Jorge Castro Flóres is a reclining figure whose very substance has been torn away. Here the reduction of the human to a kind of essence is as painful as Mari’s use of the same idea is uplifting. Elsie Ringnalda’s On Top Of You features two elongated but anonymous figures. He is lying on his back. She is upright walking towards him along his legs.

Thus natural and human creativity mix, the whole producing its own life. The vision of Johanna and Johannes works beautifully with the joint focus of garden and sculpture augmenting and amplifying each other. The Jardin Escultorico is a wonderful place to visit for residents and tourists alike. And it would also repay repeated visits, since the featured exhibitions change regularly and, of course, the trees are never the same, even from one day to the next.

You can visit this beautiful place at Cami del Pinar 23, Alfas del Pi. See for further details and opening times.