Andrew Burton at Gibside


Project Info


  • Andrew Burton


  • National Trust
  • Contemporary Visual Arts Network
  • Arts Council England

Andrew Burton was commissioned as part of a programme called Mapping Contemporary Art in the Heritage Experience (MCAHE), to make a work in response to Gibside, a National Trust property close to Gateshead and home of Mary Eleanor Bowes, born 1749.

MCAHE was an interdisciplinary research project from 2018-19 led by staff at Newcastle University in collaboration with the University of Leeds; as well as the following project partners: National Trust, The Churches Conservation Trust, English Heritage, Arts&Heritage, Contemporary Visual Arts Network, Arts Council England.

For MCAHE 2018, Andrew Burton presented The Orangery Urns, which was a temporary visual art collection that took inspiration from the 12 Georgian urns that once graced Mary Eleanor’s beloved orangery. Each urn aimed to be a creative response to different aspects of Mary Eleanor’s experiences at Gibside. In particular, focusing on Mary Eleanor’s confinement at the hands of her second husband, Andrew Robinson “Stoney”, her interests in plants and botany – including commissioning plant expeditions – as well as Georgian England itself and the source of the Bowes’ wealth, coal.

“One of the big differences of making work in this way for a heritage site means that you’re always having to come back to the story, back to the narrative rather than be able to just allow the thing to go wherever it wants to go. Part of the point of the project is that the art does actually reveal something about the history of Gibside and something about the people, even if it becomes in rather oblique sort of terms. I think that’s something that’s going to be really interesting, is how much the public take away from this as something that does actually open up the story.” – Andrew Burton

Using the vessel form as a metaphor for the relationship between Mary Eleanor and Andrew “Stoney” Robinson, Burton inscribed extracts from contemporary eighteenth century texts into the surface of the clay. The works were shown at various points within the walled garden, as well as a small collection just outside the garden walls, next to the avenue.

These large structures were not replicas of the original urns. Instead, they were inspired by Gibside’s scale and the Ancient Greek and Roman influences on its architecture. Measuring approximately 1.7m high by 90cm in diameter and weighing 200kgs, each urn was made from professional clays that had been formulated for colour and strength. They were then fired at very high (stoneware) temperature which made the fired clay body extremely strong and resilient.

“Burton’s The Orangery Urns pays homage to a dozen urns that formerly adorned the Gibside orangery. These too are magnified, and re-worked into a fantasy amalgam of Greek and Roman styles, breaks and repairs, incised texts and hieroglyphs, and they are topped with growing plants and ceramic carnival birds. Each element refers to something of Mary Eleanor’s life – perhaps partly imagined, but also featuring extracts from real journals and literary texts. There are allusions to the wealth that built the estate; both the fruits of Britain’s colonies and the coal seams of Durham.” – Dave Pritchard, Corridor8

Read the MCAHE Gibside leaflet.

The Orangery Urns was presented from 12 May – 30 September 2018.

Click here to watch a film about the installation.

The Artist

Andrew Burton’s sculpture is based on his impressions of landscape and architecture. He transforms such source material through a series of forays and experiments involving process, material, and collaboration.

Andrew Burton was born in London in 1961. His work has been shown internationally since 1990. Recent projects in India, China, and Korea have focussed on the use of brick and other retrieved material in outdoor sculpture and on collaborative work. He emphasises the sculptural possibilities of everyday objects. He is Professor of Fine Art at Newcastle University.