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Gavin Scobie: Tyrebagger Circle

review Off B979 to Inverurie, Nr Kirkton of Skene, Aberdeenshire

Gavin Scobie's Tyrebagger Circle is the 20th sculpture to be installed at Sculpture at Tyrebagger, a series of contemporary artworks specially commissioned for an area of Kirkhill Forest and the adjacent Elrick Hill,10km outside Aberdeen, writes Susanna Hastilow. The contrasting landscapes of enveloping forest and open heathland share a geographical location with a long history of human presence. The ancient standing stones that punctuate the area and the distant city, visible from the hill, provide a unifying theme for the varied and thought-provoking sculptures - the meeting of culture and nature.

An area of dense, informal woodland offered Scobie a quiet and contemplative site. He drew upon the memory of a house that he discovered deep in a forest in the north of Scotland and sought to recreate the sense of surprise and secrecy that he felt at the time.Screened by the trees, his sculpture remains hidden until you are opposite the entrance.

The work consists of three concentric fences of Scots pine, each progressively higher and denser towards the centre. You enter through a gateway and travel round to the far side of the structure.Here a wooden walkway leads across the middle space, through a narrow opening and into a decked inner circle. The inner fence,5m in diameter, is above head-height and frames a circular view of the treetops above. The ultimate progression is upwards as your gaze is drawn towards the sky. Scobie likens the exploration of his work to a kind of procession.

The slit-like entrance to the inner space increases the feeling of privacy, while three simple benches invite contemplation of nature.The sculpture offers an experience that changes with the surrounding environment, as seasons pass, wood mellows and trees grow.

Scobie planned the work in minute detail on computer, and construction was carried out by craftsmen from Forest Enterprise.

This was a departure from his usual practice, for he normally carries out all stages of a work himself, allowing the design to emerge in the making.

The arrangement and detailing of the outer fences was influenced by Japanese frame-built architecture, in particular the enclosures of Shinto shrines; the distinctive gateway suggesting a ceremonial purpose. The idea of the circle developed from Scobie's interest in Greek theatres as well as from earlier gallery pieces. In 1996 he exhibited two works, Cedar Circle and Fir Circle, where chair-like forms were linked by large wooden rings.

Much of Scobie's work refers to the human figure in some way - its scale, the way it moves, or its implied presence. Tyrebagger Circle takes these ideas further, creating a space for actual people to inhabit. Scobie describes it as a sculpture about architecture, whereas some contemporary architecture seems, to him, to be architecture about sculpture.

Susanna Hastilow is a freelance consultant in museum and gallery education.Website www. tyrebagger. org. uk

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