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Charles Jencks at Jupiter Artland

Nicky and Robert Wilson

Cells of Life at Jupiter Artland © Allan Pollock-Morris

Nature is one artist, art is another, landscape a third.

Charles Jencks
An A4 model in a cardboard box! © jupiter artland

It was with enormous personal sadness when I heard that Charles Jencks had died in 2019. Not only was he a friend but also, for me, a muse for Jupiter.

I don’t think many artists of his stature happily would happily take a chance on an out of the blue phone call from a rather frazzled person with children wailing in the background.

This was Charles, a polymath of extraordinary reputation, a brilliant intellectual mind, awe inspiring career and an enthusiast of life with boundless energy. His trademark generosity of time and support was well known and that made him accessible to the curious of intellect and to those who had a project that tickled him. He loved people with big ideas.

The digger hard at work creating Cells of Life ©Jupiter Artland

So, he dropped in on his way to the airport, partly out of curiosity and convenience. He greeted the idea of a landform at Bonnington, not yet Jupiter, with an excitement and seriousness that became Jupiter’s naissance; he was inspiring energetic and flamboyant but that didn’t mean he was a pushover. He was insistent on an intellectual rigor around the idea of a landscape for sculptures and set about teaching me his theory of art in the landscape. Charles intuitively understood what we wanted to do. The landform ‘The Cells of Life’ is 2 acres of grass mounds representing not only an extraordinary landscape but most poignantly metastasising, dividing, and reforming cells. The genesis of both life and death.

The shape of Cells of Life emerging © Jupiter Artland

The process could have been considered hilarious had it not been on such a huge scale. We have photos of Charles and I standing on top of one of the mounds agreeing that the whole beast should be nudged to the left a couple of feet. The digger driver, not in the photo, is gritting his teeth and getting his head around this monumental task. Working with Charles was an adrenalin rush; huge machines, extraordinary quantities of soil and a willingness to reinvent, explore and never be overcome by boring details. An A4 carboard box had a delicate model of the mounds glued to it, the only guide. There were no scale drawings or useful measurements that existed – just instinct and head scratching. The mounds of plasticene were slowly squashed from the digger drivers poking whilst making a point about scale and orientation. It didn’t matter, Charles evoked loyalty and bravery. He encouraged everyone to push their limits and with his extraordinary eye, he never compromised on quality. These organic models are now precious memories of robust discussion and happy problem solving.

Cella of Life @ Jupiter Artland © Jupiter Artland

Today as I drive through the mounds on the way home, it seems almost impossible to think this all has not always here. This a work that is truly in tune with nature and life.

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