Polly looks back on a lovely year as Parham’s artist

Polly Dutton at Parham House
Polly Dutton at Parham House

Polly Dutton’s year as Parham House & Gardens’ first artist-in-residence comes to a conclusion with an exhibition in the House’s Seed Room, running until July 1, 2pm-5pm.

“It has been an absolute privilege and an honour,” says Polly, who lives in Slindon. “I have had a wonderful year.

“Lady Emma (Barnard, chatelaine of Parham) asked me if I would like to become their first artist-in-residence,” she explains.

“I have never done anything like this before. They have never done anything like this before, and it has worked out wonderfully.

“They have been so kind. It has always been very fluid and flexible, never prescriptive, and it has been a huge privilege.

“I have been free to come and go as I like and free to go where I like in the grounds and the house. I have chosen to work in the grounds and gardens. I started last May. By the time the show starts, I will have done a year. I have been going up maybe once or twice a week in the good weather, sketching and painting and looking and listening and recording my thoughts and then taking it all back with me to work in my studio.

“I am calling the exhibition Distilling The Spirit of Parham. It is just such an extraordinary place. There are so many areas I could have worked and painted that I just wanted to distil it down. I have extracted so much that I could have included. There are so many things I could have done.

“What I love about Parham is the contrast. You have got this beautiful stone house and the big stone walls, the really hard design, and then you have got the soft lighting and the colours and the palette that the gardeners use. They use the palette of flowers so beautifully. They paint the borders with flowers. That’s how it feels, and I come along and try to paint the painted flowers!”

She continues: “This is just one person’s experience of Parham. That’s all it is. I can’t compete with Mother Nature and with the gardeners who have created a beautiful garden. All I can do is offer my interpretation, the way I see it, the way I feel it.

“I have focused on the blue border and also the lake there. The flowers and borders come and go, but the lake is a constant. When I am sketching, I will use charcoal and pastels, which could be soft pastels or oil pastels. The finished pieces are either oil or acrylic and quite a few in pastel.

“The family are renovating the Seed Room there. I don’t know why it is called the Seed Room, but the family have made the decision to turn it into a gallery space. It’s extraordinary. It is going to look absolutely beautiful. It is going to be quite sumptuous. They are putting in new areas to display work.”

Polly’s year as artist-in-residence officially concludes at the end of the exhibition, but some of her works will be on show in the mower shed throughout the summer.

“This residency has given me the opportunity to explore and expand ways of working and pushed me to work with different expressive mediums. Every one of my creative senses has been stimulated and fulfilled as I have absorbed the extraordinary atmosphere and beauty that is Parham.”

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