Have you ever discovered something so weird and wonderful on your travels that you’ve had to pinch yourself?
Jupiter Artland is a great destination which I found completely by accident. It’s a fantastic and unexpected place, full of surprises and strange discoveries.
Jupiter has a dream-like quality – it feels like you’ve landed on a new planet. It’s hard to believe that you’re only five miles from the city of Edinburgh when you enter its strange universe.
The Art of Design
From the moment you arrive at the park it’s as if you’ve entered a dream-like world of surreal land forms and sculptures.
The first big surprise is the shapely mounds of grass dotted with giant sculptures and otherworldly features. It’s like finding yourself inside an Alice in Wonderland story.
‘Life Mounds’ is the brainchild of American artist, Charles Jencks, who has created a series of terraced earthworks with paths, surreal features and manicured grass banks. It’s great fun to walk around this man-made environment, climb to the top of the mounds and get a fresh perspective on the landscape below.
This huge land form redraws traditional boundaries of art and landscape design. The sculptures dotted around this dream-like landscape include a giant apple, a bright crimson bridge and mounds of soil and turf in geometric patterns.
Water flows around the mounds like a circuitous river whilst walkways take you on voyages of discovery up and down its miniature hills.
I’m told that it is a celebration of the cell as the basis of life, but its serious concept doesn’t stop kids racing around its grassy banks, letting out yelps of pure joy.
Touching the Void
Fancy a trip to the abyss? Well, you’ve come to the right place… especially if you’re a fan of artist Anish Kapoor.
Kapoor’s striking installation, ‘Suck’, has been installed in a peaceful woodland setting but it has an unnerving quality.
‘Suck’ is surrounded by a tall cage which enables the viewer to glimpse the smooth curves of a strange void which sinks into the earth. The void descends to an infinite depth into which the visitor is drawn. Looking into the void through the caged bars is a chilling experience.
“We all know what darkness is – we carry it within us” says the artist in his notes about this mysterious work. A sobering thought!
One of my favourite works at Jupter Artland is ‘Firmament’ by Antony Gormley who is best known for his monumental ‘Angel of the North’.
You can’t miss this giant wire framed piece which features an enormous crouching figure of a man within a polygonal structure.
At first sight, it could be a wire frame of a mythical creature but look again and you’ll see the form of a man bent over and stretching his body.
Inspired by an ancient map of the galaxy and stars, it must have been a massive feat of engineering to create this awe-inspiring figure.
‘Firmament’ is a single ‘expanded field’ sculpture constructed from 1,019 steel balls held in the space by 1,770 steel elements of different lengths. These have been welded together to create a structure whose form “dissolves and resolves in space”.
Gormley says that it is designed to make us think about “the endless condition of the sky and the conditioned space of architecture”.
This work is best seen with the sky viewed through its multi-faceted structure.
Down in the Woods
If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise… what looks like an ordinary stone hut at Jupiter Artland turns out to be an unusual Andy Goldworthy installation.
The hut isn’t all that it seems from the outside. Go inside and you’ll be surprised to encounter an uneven stone floor which is bumpy and hard to walk across.
Goldsworthy has excavated an area of rock on which he has built a Stone House using the bedrock as a stone floor. The stones on the floor of the hut are the actual rocks on which the house is built.
Houses are supposed to be places of security and comfort but the artists has deliberately created an unnerving shell within which nature is the occupant. Walking inside makes you feel like an intruder as the dim light reveals its hidden secrets.
The peeling back of one layer of rock to expose another makes us aware of what lies below our feet. Goldsworthy has created a remarkable work which makes people look into the land and think about its significance.
Further into the undergrowth of Gala Hill Woods, you’ll find more disturbing works – a series of figures of a weeping girl by artist Laura Ford. They recall the tale of Little Red Riding Hood or fairy tale apparitions.
The figures have a very strong melancholic feel and it’s almost as if you’ve stumbled into a spooky horror movie. They’re also unusual because they are carved out of wax which has been patinated and painted bronze.
The artist says she drew inspiration from a friend’s story about a tantrum his daughter had during which she was inconsolable.
These ghostly figures are like mirror images of each other but in different states of intense drama. It’s a great series of works but you wouldn’t want to run into these weeping girls on a dark night!
Ian Hamilton Finlay is an artist who enjoys playing with classical architecture so it’s no surprise that he’s in his element at Jupiter Artland.
The Temple of Apollo is sited on a windswept hill the first of several works by this Scottish artist which are dotted along the art trail.
The temple is made from Portland stone and looks like the sort of classical feature you’d see in the gardens of a historic stately home.
Ian Hamilton Finlay originally made the piece for his own park at Little Sparta but cast it aside because he was unhappy with the ‘grandness’ of the temple. But he found the perfect poetic site for it at Jupiter where he modified the work by adding the dome and inscription.
Look closer and you’ll see gold lettering saying: “Consecutive upon Apollo, a titanic revolt in his heart” which is a quote from Louis Antoine de St Just, a French Revolutionary.
Walk a little further and you’ll encounter plaques, walls, statues, bridges and paving stones which carry Ian Hamilton Finlay’s poetic inscriptions.
Mounted on a tall plinth of Portland stone, you’ll be captivated by the gaze of Sappho, the poetess of erotic lyricism and the symbol of love and beauty.
A limestone arch bridge nearby is adorned with two milestones inscribed with the words ‘only connect’. These were the final words in E.M. Forster’s novel Howard’s End in which the author writes: “We are meaningless fragments, half monk, half beasts, unconnected arches that have never joined into man.”
What these classical fragments of ‘fake antiquity’ mean is left to the viewer to reflect on.
Guns and Gainsborough
Jupiter’s Gala Hill Wood throws up surprises around every turn of its woodland walk. It’s a shock to come face to face with artist Cornelia Parker’s ‘Landscape with Gun and Tree’ with its over-sized rifle leaning up against the bark.
It’s a clever take of the famous Gainsborough painting “Mr and Mrs Andrews’ with its woodland scene of a rich couple with a hunting gun. Parker came up with the idea after spending time at Jupiter with its current owners.
Cornelia Parker has created a giant-sized facsimile of the owner’s shotgun which stands propped against a tree as if momentarily left by an absent-minded game keeper.
It’s designed to remind us of the human presence in the woods as well as highlighting the potential violence of a cocked shotgun.
Parker is renowned for containing volatile objects and making them into something quiet and contemplative, like her famous exploding garden shed at the Tate Gallery. At Jupiter she has pulled off a similar trick to great effect.
A grey concrete enclosure, set aside from its surroundings, beckons us inside where we discover a small ‘graveyard’ with headstones, flowers and plants.
Each tombstone seems to relate to a different religion but the names of the deceased have been obliterated. Perhaps Coley is asking us to think about how we mark the lives of those that are passed but there is also an underlying feeling of celebrating lost souls within this strange concrete bunker.
This powerful art work is all about mortality and how we cross the lines between the living and the dead… and what is left in the after life.
I’m told that the door way was built using the exact dimensions of the average human body in terms of its height and width. Perhaps this suggests the road that all of us must one day take from life to the ‘other side’.
One of the most striking things about the art works at Jupiter is their strong relationship with the landscape which surrounds them.
Perhaps the best example is ‘Over Here’, a stunning marriage of art and landscape art by Shane Waltener which overlooks the Milkmaid’s Field.
From a distance it looks like a giant spider’s web, but move closer and you’ll discover that this delicate creation is knitted from fishing line wire, using a technique called Shetland lace.
As you look through the web and move around, the landscape changes and is framed differently. This lovely work creates panoramas, changing views and perspectives across the farmed landscape.
The knitted web becomes a filter through which we frame the landscape but it also has connotations of being a trap for capturing the essence of the place. It’s intriguing to see how Shane Waltener marries knitting, lace making techniques, art and landscape design in this one piece.
Inside the Grotto
One of my favourite works at Jupiter Artland is a site specific installation by another Scottish artist, Anya Gallaccio called ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’.
It’s a mind-blowing work which engages the viewer by taking them down a steep staircase into an inner chamber where find yourself surrounded by a purple amethysts topped with shiny obsidian.
Gallacio is interested in the natural processes in the landscape so perhaps it’s no surprise that her work takes the form of a man-made grotto of gemstones and rocks.
The artist says that she intended this work to be unsettling at first and for visitors to question whether they should enter the gate or not.
When you make the journey down to the chamber, the space is surprisingly intimate, quiet and reflective in nature.
I was fascinated by the craggy amethyst walls with crystals growing in clusters and producing a deceptively smooth but jagged surface.
This Aladdin’s cave of gemstones is highly sensory experience and it’s tempting to reach out and touch its undulating and crystal-encrusted walls
There’s also something interesting about delving down deep into the landscape and the layers of geological time which has much in common with fellow artist, Andy Goldsworthy.
Stone and Wood
Down in Badger Wood, you’ll find another array of fascinating sculptures and installations including Andy Goldsworthy’s ‘Stone Coppice’.
Goldsworthy is well-known for his ephemeral art works made from natural materials such as snow, ice, wood, leaves, sand and twigs.
‘Stone Coppice’ in Badger Wood is another of his ever-changing pieces, this time with a group of coppiced trees which have had large boulders inserted between their branches. It’s a weird sight as you happen upon the first tree and then gradually discover the large number of stones dotted throughout the woods.
Andy Goldsworthy says he wants to create “a living, growing, changing sculpture in which people and wood play equally important roles”.
The work is being managed to see how it develops and there are plans to add a further group of stones in 10-15 years time. It will be intriguing to come back and see how this art work looks in a decade.
A companion work by Goldsworthy called ‘Coppice Room’ can be found at the far end of the Jupiter art trail. Branches which were coppiced from Badger Wood are suspended together in a mysterious darkened room.
Goldsworthy said that he wanted to make a building connected to the woodland in the same way that his ‘Stone House’ connects to the bedrock in Gala Hill Wood. When you enter this work, you have to negotiate the tree branches which block your way.
It’s all about the experience of encountering the unexpected and it’s safe to say that it’s quite unsettling as you venture inside. It feels as if you’ve disappeared into the darkness as you’re engulfed by nature.
Rivers of glass
For something completely different, take a walk over to the Duck Pond where an art installation called ‘Rivers’ by Tania Kovats is a real treat.
Tania Kovats has collected 100 specimens of water from 100 rivers around the British Isles and these have been distilled into 100 sealed jars and stored inside a new boathouse.
The fragile glass bottles try to capture the essence of the places where the water was drawn from, preserving a ‘watery footprint’ from that locality forever.
Each sample of water holds the memories of time, place and events – a unique record. It’s a poignant work which also draws upon concerns about the environment and climate change.
In the vicinity of the Duck Pond you’ll also see and hear the chiming sound of hundreds of small Japanese bells attached to the long stems planted in the ground.
This subtle work called ‘Animatis’ by French artist Christian Boltanski is easy to miss, but provides a poignant reminder of the simple things in life. Its “music of souls” is life-affirming and celebratory.
Fields of Fire
It’s a relief to be out in the open countryside after the darkness of the woodland but the duo of art works near the Boundary Wall are equally troubling.
Henry Castle has created two companion works, one of a missile and the other of a fighter plane from the Second World War.
The missile is an exact replica of a bomb carried by a Junkers 88. It is disconcerting because it sits on a solid black granite plinth but is actually made from soft rubber bomb.
A Junker 88 plane model is located on a wall close to the bomb whilst a second and larger aircraft model is buried somewhere near the crash site.
The idea of a complete plane being buried in the fields three miles away is quite disturbing and thought-provoking.
The grand finale at Jupiter Artland is a giant-sized installation named ‘Love Bomb’ which was specially commissioned for the park. Marc Quinn’s ‘Love Bomb’ is a 12-metre-high orchid decorated with garish multi-coloured flowers.
Quinn has used glossy modern technology to create a modified flower which is monstrous and seductively beautiful to show how human desires are shaping the natural world.
It’s one of the few works which I disliked at Jupiter. I can understand the intentions of the artist and the psychedelic imagery but let’s face it. ‘Love Bomb’ is plain ugly and dominates the skyline.
Further along the garden area, I was more impressed by Ian Hamilton Finlay’s ‘Beehives’, a series of five hives with inscriptions, awaiting occupation by bees. Later in the summer, the hives will be hosting a colony of honey bees producimg honey.
The hives are supposed to be a gentle counterpoint to the man-made and ‘genetically modified’ ‘Love Bomb’ by Mark Quinn.
The Ballroom is worth a detour with its changing exhibitions. Most dramatic of the current batch is German artist Michael Sailstorfer’s popcorn machine which spews out cracked kernels into the gallery space.
Eventually the gallery floor becomes covered with layers of popcorn from the perpetual production line highlighting our insatiable appetite and greed. It’s a veritable ballroom blitz!
Michael Sailstorfer uses familiar objects as a starting point for his idiosyncratic experiments and you’ll discover yet more of his work at The Steadings (near the entrance).
This is an artist who isn’t afraid to use all the human senses to stimulate a response – from smell to piercing sound and visual imagery using film, installations or sculpture.
My favourite of his works – Brenner – appeals to all our senses. A giant woodpile stacked outside the Steadings Gallery hints at what is inside the gallery as does the increasingly strong whiff of burning wood. Once inside the gallery, the heat is intense and overwhelming!
There are three cars, as if on a production line, but they are incomplete shells. The clever trick is that there’s a wood burning stove within each car body where the engine would normally be. It’s a remarkable work.
Shrine to the Arts
The final piece of art at Jupiter encapsulates everything which is good about this wonderful art park. A small shrine almost hidden in a shed allows us to peak inside.
It has an almost religious feel. Delve deeper and you’ll discover questions about mortality and the mysterious on an illuminated panel. This is what this place is all about – the mystery of art and life.
As you wander through the final exhibits, time seems to have flown by and it’s hard to believe that we’ve spent three hours at Jupiter Artland.
A large piece of scaffolding with illuminated text proclaims ‘You Imagine What You Desire’, a quote from George Bernard Shaw. It’s all about imagination and creativity, a bit like Jupiter.
But it’s also a fun place to visit for people of all ages – there’s something to raise the spirits everywhere you look. Jupiter is packed with art created by some of the world’s best and most provocative artists.
It’s simply out of this world!
Tammy’s Travel Guide – Jupiter Artland Edinburgh
Jupiter Artland is located nine miles west of Edinburgh near Wilkieston just off the ring road into the city. There is only one entrance to Jupiter via the B7015. Do not use GPS/Satellite navigation systems which will take you to the wrong place.
There is also a direct bus from central Edinburgh and the journey takes 35 minutes. The number 27 and X27 First Bus leaves from Edinburgh (Regent Rd) or from Dalry Road, Haymarket.
There’s an admission fee of £8.50 to the garden and galleries (concessions are also available). No dogs are allowed except for guide dogs.
Jupiter is open 10-5 on Thursdays to Sundays between 6 May and 1 October – and every day in July and August. Be aware that Jupiter is closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays except in the peak summer months.
The walking route around the Jupiter art trail takes around two hours but it’s easy to spend longer looking at the works along the route.
Don’t miss the Ballroom Gallery hidden in the heart of the gardens, which features changing exhibitions. You’ll also find indoor exhibits and rotating shows at The Steadings near the entrance.
Jupiter has a lovely cafe which prides itself on local and seasonal produce – and provides hot and cold food.
There is also an airstream caravan takeaway for those who want to eat and drink on the move. Picnics are not allowed within the art park.
If you’re staying in a motorhome or caravan yourself, the nearest big site for an overnight stay is at Morton Hall in Edinburgh.