Photo by Ken Adlard

Artist ‘Not Vital’ brings reflective sculptures to the British countryside

By Harriet Thorpe
7th February 2020

Escape to the picturesque village of Bruton in Somerset this weekend to see Swiss artist Not Vital’s immersive outdoor sculptures at Hauser & Wirth gallery. The reflective metallic surfaces of the sculptures make a striking contrast to the traditional farm house architecture. Inside, the wider exhibition explores five decades of Vital’s career from early readymades of the 1960s, to models of his global projects.

The rolling British countryside was an inspiration for Vital who grew up in the Engadine valley, and now leads a quasi-nomadic lifestyle between Switzerland, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing. The largest sculpture reaches just over 5 metres, the same height as Michelangelo’s David, and looks out towards Bruton’s limestone Dovecote tower built around the 16th century.

Shaped like a tall house with a pitched roof, this work references Vital’s ongoing series of sculptural houses designed only to watch the sunset from. He started the series in 2005 in Niger, where he built the first 13 metre tall house with local suppliers and builders. He built the same house again in Brazil and Switzerland, but with local materials. The exhibition shows a model of the house template, with its three unconnected storeys each reached by three external staircases.

The stainless steel sculptures contrasts with the natural landscape of Hauser & Wirth Somerset to a surreal effect. In the Cloister Courtyard you’ll find a three metre tall fruit-shaped sculpture with organic cut-outs. Across the front lawn there’s a series of hay bales covered in white varnish which represent winter as a season of pause and renewal.

Not Vital hay bales outside Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Not Vital sculptures at Hauser & Wirth Somerset

Not Vital calls his unique brand of sculpture and architecture ‘Scarch’, a combination of the two words and disciplines. His architectural tendencies can be seen across different scales in the show. The ‘100 Architects’ installation from 2016 features a group of 101 black granite sculptures each dedicated to an international architect. On a totally different scale, Vital is currently reimagining a modern infrastructure inside an 11th century Tarasp Castle near the town of Scuol in Switzerland.

You could always make a weekend of it and head down to Michael Caines’ Lympstone Manor for exceptional cuisine and 28-acres of beautiful gardens. Explore Lympstone Manor here. 

Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, 25 January – 4 May 2020
Photography: Ken Adlard. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth © Not Vital

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