Spring in the RHS Gardens at Wisley in Surrey was a good place to get some exercise and allow children to explore Philip Haas’s iconic sculptures of the Four Seasons in a controlled way as we all have to protect ourselves within the space-separation guidelines for the current coronavirus crisis. The natural compositions of Philip Haas’s sculptures, inspired by Arcimboldo, and which I saw in the newly-refurbished Baker Museum in Florida a year ago, fit perfectly within the landscape of RHS Wisley, along side other sculptures by Lynn Chadwick and Henry Bruce.
‘I embarked upon The Four Seasons wanting to re-contextualise Arcimboldo’s 16th century nature imagery within a 21st century physical world by the changing scale, materials and dimensions. Within the exhibition taking place at Wisley over the seasons, other transformations will occur to alter and enrich the viewer’s perspective – the passage of time, the play of light and weather on the sculptures.’ (Philip Haas)
The RHS has led the way in showing what can be done by keeping its 240 acre site open while closing places where people may come into close contact – the glasshouses, childrens’ play areas and indoor refreshment spaces, cancelling planned events, and providing take-away snacks to be eaten outdoors and hand sanitisation and introducing social distancing measures, for example at the entrance and at its garden centre tills, both for visitors and staff. It seems sad that other organisations have been unable to adopt such sophisticated management arrangements and only have two options – open or shut -, following a weekend where their spaces were unfortunately overwhelmed with visitors, as open spaces are vital for wellbeing even if numbers have to be controlled and social distancing implemented.
The garden centre was doing a good trade with people who are going to make the most of their enforced confinement at home – apparently ‘grow your own’ vegetables and plant seeds were flying off the shelves.