Inspiration is a funny thing. It arrives without warning, disappears without trace when you think you’re on a roll and just occasionally it really surprises you by jumping out of a dark corner and shouting ‘here I am come and get me’ before running off into a cupboard and locking the door. At least .. I think that’s inspiration. Equally it may also apply to many other things, including bottles of expensive champagne.
However, one Tuesday afternoon we threw caution and computers to one side and wandered off to have a bit of a jolly at Croft Castle in Herefordshire (very close to where we live in fact). We were reliably informed that there was a contemporary art exhibition created by various artists-in-residence at the castle over the past year, so we went to be amazed and inspired by a combination of old (castle), history (all the things in it, around it and of it) and art.
If inspiration is a funny thing then art is completely hysterical. It seems that anything passes for ‘art’ and it’s all up to the individual to connect with it and be amazed, inspired, amused, impressed – or however it takes you. If you find yourself staring blankly at something that just bypasses all your available processes for comprehension and appreciation, then just move on. No doubt to someone else it will be wonderful. We did a fair bit of moving on to be honest. I think I like the idea that whatever I’m engaging with will transport me to another place and allow me, just for a moment, to get a glimpse of something I’ve never seen before. Theatre, of course, can be brilliant at that because it works with so many senses at once.
In the graveyard next to the Castle Chapel they had made metal frames to represent gravestones that weren’t there anymore. I stared blankly wondering why they had chosen to mark out old graves in that way. But Jim thought they looked like giant croquet hoops and, to be honest, the idea of giants playing croquet in the graveyard I really did find very appealing. He saw something I did not and that, rather than the actual hoops, inspired my own thoughts. So onwards into the house and in the entrance hall there was another ‘installation’ of mirrors, the surrounds of which were bits of paintings of various parts of the house (ok ‘castle’, I thought it looked more like a house though – a big one obviously). The idea (explained the NT Greeter) was that when you looked in one of the mirrors you became part of the house, just for a moment, before stepping back out again. I really do have an imagination but I want to be transported! I want to step through the looking glass and find myself in a different room. I want to be amazed by the magic and the trickery. I did try it in a sort of ‘you have to be kidding’ sort of way. I saw my legs and they were being reflected back to me in the way I might have expected. I didn’t notice that they were suddenly in a different room – but it would have been wonderful if I had. If you looked in a mirror and your reflection was somewhere else? Yes please ……
As we wandered around trying to spot inspiration we were delighted to discover that in order to keep small children happy there were a number of furry badgers secreted about the house (castle) in strange and wondrous places. Now that kept us interested for a while, although we almost launched a rescue operation for the one trapped with all the wild and dangerous books on the caged bookshelves. I confess I took more photos of small furry badgers, but I won’t bore you with them (unless you come round for tea unexpectedly – be warned).
What else was inspiring? The Stables. Well, I liked it in the stables. I like things that are dark, creepy scary, otherworldly etc … No dungeons, so the stables had the slightly creepy things in. Horseshoes floating in the air, a strange design for a house over water and atmospheric lighting … now we’re getting somewhere! More like a theatre in fact. But the best bit was Rebecca Farkas’ light/film/photograph installation in the slate store. Not that you’ll be able to find it if you go there unless you are very tenacious and ask LOTS of NT people (ask for Victor, he knows where the slate store is). Then you might just find it and see a corner of the store turn into all kinds of different scenes based on photos from the house (castle). Atmospheric and rather beautiful. Worth going? Well, yes it was. Inspiration, like champagne (not that we drink actual champagne very often you understand, cheapish cava maybe), can always surprise you and hides in all sorts of strange places. Don’t rule anything out. The cake was nice too….. (Just off to search old dusty cupboards in unused magical rooms for champagne)