Above: Lotus   (Pond in front of The Cottage) Stainless-steel, 80/180/100 cm

Helen Solly, Sculptor: “Garden Reflections”, An exhibition at Denmans Garden
A Denmans ‘Meet the Maker’ interview

Helen Solly standing beside ‘Urn with Palm’ (The Nut Walk) Stainless-steel, 200/100/25 cm

Denmans Garden collaborates with local artists and makers in various ways, from events to workshops, showcasing work in the gift shop and garden, and even providing inspiration and materials.  This summer we are delighted host work by Sussex-based contemporary sculptor Helen Solly. Her exhibition, ‘Garden Reflections’, showcases unique hand-made sculptures inspired by the Denmans Garden and will run from the end of April through to the end of August.


Helen, who was shortlisted for the prestigious Lady Petchey Sculpture Prize for emerging female artists (the sculpture element of the Holly Bush Painting Prize), creates three-dimensional, animated, flowing forms through physical manipulation of sheet metal often followed by a burnishing technique that gives her metal surfaces water-like reflective qualities. Having graduated from Chichester University with a first-class degree in fine art with sculpture, Helen’ most recent exhibition was alongside Deirdre Dyson’s award-winning collection of bespoke hand-knotted rugs in Dyson’s London gallery. She has also widely exhibited – from the Chichester Festival Theatre (a stunning mobile in the Minerva Theatre) to Quenington Old Rectory (as part of ‘Fresh Air Sculpture’), Oxmarket Contemporary, and Standen House and Garden.


We recently spoke to Helen to get an insight into her work, and what she finds compelling about Denmans Garden:


I first visited Denmans Garden when Artist in Residence Sue England was exhibiting her paintings. Since then, Gwendolyn van Paasschen and I have been discussing when would be the right time to display my work in the beautiful setting of the garden.

Curve (The Dry Riverbed) Stainless-steel, 120/140/100 cm

I like the great variety in the garden at Denmans. There are lots of different areas, a walled garden, woodland, open lawns. I also love the colours and am very glad the sun has finally started to arrive.


In terms of what inspires me in thinking about the pieces for this exhibition, I look at the shapes of the plants, trees, and beds, and emulate and echo these with my sculptures. Burnishing the surface of stainless-steel creates patterns that resemble water and the patterns that are left on a sandy beach when the tide retreats.


Initially I make a paper maquette, which is made to scale, and can then be translated onto sheet steel and stainless steel. I use a plasma cutter and an angle grinder to smooth the edges. Steel sculptures are powder coated to make them weatherproof and the stainless steel is sometimes burnished to create an interesting surface.


Unity (The Walled Garden) Powder-coated Steel,  230/80/51 cm

At Denmans I love the royal blue of the benches and the shapes of the topiary trees. I am looking to create interesting shapes with my sculptures to compliment this oasis. With outdoor sculptures I must consider the weather, not only that it doesn’t rust, but also that they must be stable in the wind and rain, and we have certainly had lots of that recently.


I am so looking forward to my sculptures being exhibited at Denmans Garden and looking ahead I also have exhibitions forthcoming at Fresh Air Sculpture, Gloucestershire 16th June – 7th July, and the Oxmarket Contemporary, Chichester for a group exhibition 1-13th October.


Flora 2 (In front of The Cottage) Stainless-steel, 110/110/110 cm

This month’s issue of ‘Sussex Life’ features a four-page feature about Helen and the variety of her work in which she discusses her process in more depth and considers the lasting power of her sculptures “They will be there long after me…. I want to make really high-quality beautiful pieces and I want them to last…I’m creating handmade pieces and the time and energy I put into them means they are all individual, unique, and different. I am not interested in making thousands of pieces – I want the ones I make to be treasured and to become heirlooms for whoever buys them’”.


Kissing circles (Towards Clock House) Powder-coated Steel, 100/66/50 cm

Helen’s exhibition at Denmans Garden – ‘Garden Reflections’ is a curated selection of ten pieces of Helen’s work inspired by the diverse spaces and tranquillity of Denmans and positioned throughout the garden for all visitors to seek out and enjoy….






To book tickets to the garden go to: https://www.denmans.org/product-category/tickets/

 For more information on Helen and her work go to https://www.helensolly.com where the pieces on display at Denmans are available for sale. You can also contact Helen via her website if you are interested in discussing a bespoke commission.

 Helen is also on Instagram @helen.solly

Helen’s exhibition at Denmans is also part of the Festival of Chichester which runs from 15 June-21 July and incorporates a wide variety of cultural events at different locations around the district. For more information and a list of the events that are part of the festival go to: https://festivalofchichester.co.uk/

For more information, please contact Louise Campbell

louise@denmans.org 07540892364