Visitors to this year’s Royal Horticultural Society Show Garden at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, will witness a highly unusual event.
A monumental stone sculpture, which will be on display in the garden, is similar to Stonehenge and other ancient sites that are lit up on particular days of the year: it is precisely aligned with the movements of the sun. At an exact moment, 4.30PM on Saturday 9 June, the shadows cast by the sun will fit perfectly with outlines of shadows that are carved into the stone.
The sculpture, which is named Holocene after the current geological epoch, takes the form of a series of large sandstone blocks, which come from the Chatsworth estate. Like a large sundial, the blocks cast a complex pattern of shadows at different times of day, meaning that the work repays spending time with and revisiting. Some of the blocks also have carved into them, in deep relief, the outline of the shadows that will be falling on them at a precise moment of time: this has been worked out exactly using computer modelling.
The creator of Holocene is Stroud-based sculptor Ann-Margreth Bohl, working with digital designer Dan Hughes McGrail and stone carver Danny Evans. Much of Ann-Margreth’s previous work, which includes previous commissions for the RHS and the National Memorial Arboretum, has also explored themes of light and shadow, change and the passing of time.
By using stone from the Chatsworth estate, Holocene’s carbon footprint is kept to a minimum. The work in a sense comes from the Derbyshire landscape (where quarrying has historically been an important industry), and it is due to return to it: after the blocks have been displayed in the RHS Show Garden, they will stay on the Chatsworth estate.