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EXHIBITION

REVIEW

Anthony Caro and Sheila Girling At the New Art Centre, Roche Court, East Winterslow, Salisbury, until 16 September

Roche Court is one of those unexpected treasures of the countryside with which England is blessed. Nestling in the Wiltshire landscape just outside Salisbury, it is the home of Madeleine Bessborough's New Art Centre, which was originally established in London's Sloane Street before its ight to the countryside.

In recent years Roche Court has been embellished by two award-winning small extensions by Stephen Marshall of Munkenbeck + Marshall. His Artists' House (AJ 14.02.02) and barely-there gallery are beautifully minimal additions to the domestic informality of the 19th-century house. These buildings and the setting alone make the journey to Wiltshire worthwhile.

From now until the end of the summer, Roche's normal selection of 20th- and 21stcentury art from the likes of Richard Long, David Nash and Anya Gallaccio is shown alongside a temporary exhibition of the works of one of Britain's most respected artist couples: Anthony Caro and Sheila Girling.

Girling's work seeks to explore ideas of materiality and the weathering of architectural surfaces in a variety of climates, but it is Caro's sculptures that will probably appeal more to readers of the AJ. From his ground-breaking exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in the early 1960s, to the end of the 20th-century, his sculpture has seemed to hold a special fascination for architects; in opening the exhibition, Norman Foster paid homage to Caro for the inspirational quality of his work.

Roche Court has brought together 12 of Caro's Flats series of monumental steel sculptures for the first time in Britain.

They date from his visits to the York Steel yard in Toronto in 1974, where he was able to exploit the company's industrial plant to manipulate, and compose with, thicker and heavier steel plate than he had previously been able to use.

As is often the case, photos of the sculptures fail to convey the physical qualities of the work. Despite their sheer weight and monumentality, there is - as with Caro's earlier primarycoloured sculptures - something disarmingly playful and engaging about these works.

They really appear to deny their physical materiality, which is none too readily achieved with several tons of steel plate.

Set in the parkland gardens around the main house, the steel's warm, deep sheen takes on the appearance of luxuriant dark chocolate. Each of the 12 pieces appears casually composed, much like chocolate decorations on a gourmet dessert, their shavings and slithers, curling and fractured, in precarious piles. With the rain still glistening on them as they were at the opening, the sculptures looked straight from the fridge: an extraordinary garnish on a quintessentially English bucolic landscape idyll.

If such an unlikely confectionery analogy leaves you either sceptical or salivating, a trip to Roche Court is highly recommended.

Alex Wright is an architect in Bath and a teaching fellow in architecture at Bath University

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