This summer, the historic site Nevill Holt in Leicestershire will host, in conjunction with its annual Opera and Summer festivals, the largest sculptural work by the British-Irish artist Luke Alen-Buckley. Nevill Holt Opera’s permanent home is one of the most uniquely intimate opera houses in the UK.
Set in the stunning gardens designed by Chelsea gold medal winner Rupert Golby a three-piece monumental work, titled The Morrígan will be the centrepiece of this exhibition. Each of the three sculptures stands three metres tall and comprises a 15-tonne sculpted blue limestone glacial erratic rock from Tipperary, Ireland, suspended within a steel ring. Sixteen further sculptures will be arranged around the grounds of Nevill Holt alongside an outstanding permanent collection of British art and sculpture featuring works by Antony Gormley, Allen Jones, Marc Quinn, Nic Fiddian Green, Conrad Shawcross and Sean Henry, among others, setting the grounds for reflection on environmental questions and the human impact on the planet.
Luke Alen-Buckley has long been fascinated by the geological history, memory, and metamorphosis of the earth. Leaving his art degree at Edinburgh School of Art for a degree in Physics he soon came to appreciate a more scientific and environmental approach to art, that would deeply root him to geological formations.
In his first sculptural series, Alen-Buckley used boulders deposited by the icesheet at the foot of the Knockmealdown mountains, close to his studio in Co Waterford.
Alen-Buckley’s assiduous work carving and polishing these stones lies in revealing their embedded fossils and veins, as presented by the series Talisman 2020 at Nevill Holt. Also on display will be Memento Mori – A Conversation with Mortality, a series Alen-Buckley began in 2019 using stone, steel, and water. As with most of his sculptural works, these hollowedout stones are designed to interact with the environment, evoking an object of devotion. In this way these 340-million-year-old glacial erratic boulders acquire a transcendental meaning that harks back to ancient traditions and beliefs.
The Morrígan takes its title from the ancient Celtic pre-pagan triadic goddess, also described as ‘phantom queen’. She appears to date from around the Copper Age, based on archaeological findings. Morrígan is one of the most complex figures in Irish mythology, not least due to her genealogy representing three different women in one being.
In particular, the Morrígan elicits contrasting characteristics of sovereignty and fate, war and death, and rebirth and hope.
The nature of the goddess is evoked in Alen-Buckley’s sculpture bestowing it an elemental symbolism like an ancient stone stela; the triplicate form indicates a belief that the many comes from the One Source, simultaneously expressing communion and individuality. The three steel rings carefully enfold each individual stone, each unique in its own universe yet part of a bigger whole.
Alen-Buckley works in all types of natural boulders from across the British Isles and Ireland yet in this series he returns to his favoured Irish blue limestone. He found these great glacial erratics in his neighbouring County Tipperary where, unless ‘rescued’ by him, they would have been unceremoniously crushed for limestone aggregate.
Luke Alen-Buckley was born in London and currently lives and works between London and Co Waterford.
Alen-Buckley is part of a new generation of British/Irish sculptors who share the same interest in leaving an environmental message.
Although only at the beginning of his career, he has already had several successful sell-out exhibitions. He has exhibited at Art3f, Monaco; Van Gogh Art Gallery, Madrid; Painting Rooms, London; Amber Room, London; Atelier LK, London; Holland Park Opera, London and other group shows. His work is featured in some of Britain’s most glorious historic residencies such as Oakley Court in Windsor and Colstoun House, Scotland and is part of other important British & Irish private collections.
Nevill Holt, a Grade I listed building dating back to before 1300, was once the home of the Cunard shipping family and is owned by David Ross since 2000. He spent 12 years renovating it and it became home for the Nevill Holt Opera in 2018. It stands on a hilltop with panoramic views of the beautiful Leicestershire countryside.
Each summer a cast of the UK’s most talented young opera singers take to the stage. NHO’s Summer Festival of concerts and events takes place throughout June and includes everything from Big Band Jazz inspired by the Great American Songbook to the Grammy Award-winning Swingles to a Last Night of the Proms-inspired Jubilee celebration.
Holt Opera will present a celebratory concert extravaganza on 4th June, Music for a Royal Jubilee, featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra.