Jupiter Artland is probably one of the lesser well-known attractions to visit in Edinburgh – I hadn’t even heard of it until a few months ago! It’s actually a little way outside the city, near Wilkieston, which is about half an hour from the city centre on a bus. It’s an art installation park, in the grounds of an old manor house. The couple that own the house, Bonnington House, commissioned artists to create a private collection of installations around the grounds, which is now open to the public during the summer months (May – September). I had a sunny afternoon off last week, so a friend and I finally decided it was time to check it out, especially before it closed again for winter.
Once you get off the bus, you have to find your way through the grounds to the steadings, the small yard behind the manor house, where the ticket office is – this was a little confusing, as you walk past half the artworks on your way there! So there is an element of trust, in people being honest and going to get the ticket, rather than wandering around without paying, but they do put a sticker on you after you pay, in case anyone does come around to check. There’s also a small cafe, shop, and bathrooms around the steadings. When you pay, you also get a map of the grounds, indicating a route and where the artworks are (there’s also a mobile app available), but the website does state that the focus is on exploration and self-discovery, so you don’t have to stick to the route on the map (we didn’t). You’re also encouraged to photograph the pieces, especially trying different compositions and posing with them, so get ready for a photo-heavy post! I liked that there was a description of each artwork on the back of the map though, giving you an idea of the artist’s intentions and meaning behind their piece. The first one is actually on the back of the ticket office, a series of magic mirrors with coloured corners, as if peeling away from the wall, titled ‘A Forest’.
We explored the area to the west of the steadings first, looping through the forest, marked on the map as ‘Gala Hill’. These were some of the most unsettling pieces in the park, in my opinion, as we suddenly came across stone statues of little girls with their faces hidden by the hair, called the ‘Weeping Girls’. This was soon followed by ‘In Memory’, a graveyard where all the headstones were missing their names, and then ‘Landscape with Gun and Tree’, which is a huge rifle leaning against a tree, as if left behind by someone. All quite sinister or somber in one way or another! I particularly liked ‘Over Here’, a spider web sort of structure hung between the trees, made from multicoloured fishing line. Part of the fun of the park is posing for photos with the pieces, which you’re encouraged to share on social media, so we framed ourselves in the central circle of ‘Over Here’. I also liked ‘Firmament’, a complex structure of steels rods and balls, which can be used to frame the sky and the landscape beyond the hill it sits on, as well as each other!
We went past the steadings and over to the east side after that. The house is off limits to visitors, but you can enter the ballroom, where there was another installation on display, a huge red heart suspended from the ceiling, made from plastic cutlery, and outside the doors, in the courtyard, is a giant silver shoe, made from pots and pans, which aren’t actually marked on the map. The skyline to the east is then dominated by ‘Love Bomb’, a gigantic monstrous looking orchid sculpture. Unlike many of the other pieces, hidden and woven into the forest, this thing is bold and overpowering! Nearby there is also the ‘Signpost to Jupiter’, literally a sign pointing skywards, detailing the distance from Earth to Jupiter!
We wandered down into the ‘Life Mounds’ next, one of the more well-known and popular installations in the park, a series of landscaped hills and water features. We thought it looked a bit like Teletubby-Land, with the roundness of the hills. They have ridges cut into them, so you can climb up them, and cross the water on the narrow paths. We spent quite a while exploring this area, since it’s one of the bigger pieces, and taking plenty of photos on different hills, trying to get the best angles and lighting – it was late in the afternoon, so the low sun could be both an advantage and disadvantage at times! Then we found the equally photogenic ‘Rose Walk’, in The Wilderness part of the forest, south of the ‘Life Mounds’, which is a rose garden with a pavilion at either end, one Gothic and one Chinese in style, where I ended up loving this backlit photo far more than any we took facing the sun!
We roamed over towards Badger Wood and the Duck Pond, where we passed by the ‘Stone Coppice’, a series of boulders placed inside young trees, which is an ongoing piece, as the trees will grow around the stones as the years pass, and have to be tended as this happens, and more stones may be added over time. In the centre of the Duck Pond is ‘Animatis’, tiny Japanese bells attached to long stems in the ground, arranged to produce a map of the stars. I loved the idea of this one, I just thought it was a shame that you can only see it from a distance, across the pond, so it’s hard to really see the bells or get a decent photo of them. Inside the boathouse, we found ‘Rivers’, a collection of bottles of water from one hundred rivers around Britain. Finally, as we went back through The Wilderness, towards the exit, we saw ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’, an area surrounded by gold barbed wire, which you pass through to discover a field of raw obsidian, which you then descend through to enter a cavern of amethyst. I thought this one was absolutely beautiful, as we stood surrounded by walls of glittering purple stone, and took a million photos of each other!
It took us about two hours to get around everything, but you could spend much longer here if you wanted, or whiz around it even faster. I loved the interactivity of it, the fact that you’re encouraged to be a part of the installations, to incorporate yourself into them as you take photos, and to share these online. This is not static art to only be looked at, it’s all about how you want to interpret them yourself. The relationship between each piece and the surrounding environment is also interesting, as some merge with the landscape, and others stand out in opposition to it, but all have been designed specifically for the park. It’s a lot of fun, and you can definitely enjoy it even if you aren’t typically an art connoisseur, and it’s great for people of any age, as proven by the number of kids we saw there! Definitely somewhere that more people should check out!