Acclaimed British artist Sophie Ryder has installed three beautiful bronze sculptures in Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville. The sculptures, Sitting (2005), Kneeling Lovers (2014) and Rising (2011), are on display as part of the charity’s leading arts programme, which includes regular creative workshops, live music performances and exhibitions to nurture the physical and psychological wellbeing of people adjusting to life-changing spinal injuries.
Sophie Ryder was born in London in 1963 and 2023 celebrates her 60th year. Aged 17 she was youngest student after J.M.W. Turner to be admitted to the Royal Academy Schools and since graduating has exhibited across the world. She was joined by patients, visiting families and friends, NHS staff, and the charity’s staff team and volunteers, who were delighted by the arrival of the uniquely stunning sculptures in the charity’s garden, located at the National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
She said: ‘Having spent long stretches of my childhood in and out of hospital, it was a pleasure to accept the request for me to lend some work to Horatio’s Garden. Spending months, even years undergoing treatment can be demoralising and anything that might make the experience better for people can only be good.’
Evie Redwood, Arts Programme Coordinator at Horatio’s Garden charity said: ‘We are delighted to have Sophie Ryder’s work installed in Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville as part of our Arts Programme, her work is mesmerising and thought-provoking and we hope that patients, their visitors and staff will enjoy viewing them in the garden over the next six months.’
Sophie’s world is one of animals and mystical creatures constructed from wet plaster, old machine parts, scavenged toys, tangled wire, and torn scraps of paper. She creates two central hybrid beings: the Ladyhare, and its partner, the Minotaur. For Ryder ‘they are opposite forces, which can be paired or remain independent of one another.’ Her anthropomorphic characters are used both to explore the human condition and as a metaphor for Ryder’s own feelings. Indeed, the Ladyhare’s body is based on Ryder’s own.
This exhibition forms part of a series of Sophie Ryder events throughout the Summer including open air sculpture at St James’s Square, RHS Wisley and Chelsea Barracks. The award-winning gallery and museum The Lightbox in Woking, Surrey is also hosting a major retrospective entitled All of Us.
After installing her work in Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville, Sophie said: ‘Installing my sculpture in Horatio’s Garden was a lovely experience. The crew of people running the place couldn’t have been more welcoming. I spoke to a few patients who have undergone life-changing experiences. It makes me happy to think my work may be able to give them a little bit of joy during such difficult times.’
The sculptures will remain in Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville for the rest of the year, where they will prompt thoughtful conversation among visitors to the garden and encourage people to embrace their creativity. Research conducted by Horatio’s Garden details 97% of patients feel the artistic activities organised by the charity offer a distraction from pain; a statistic that strongly illustrates just how vital creative pursuits are as part of people’s rehabilitation.
Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville is opening up to the public on 24 June for the National Garden Scheme – find out more and book here.
Horatio’s Garden Stoke Mandeville first opened in September 2018. Created by multiple RHS Chelsea Gold Medal winner and beloved presenter of BBC Gardeners’ World Joe Swift, the garden forms part of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The charity recently appeared on Main Avenue at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023, where Horatio’s Garden Chelsea designed by Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg of Harris Bugg Studio was awarded an RHS Chelsea Gold Medal and won ‘Best in Show.’
To find out more and support Horatio’s Garden, visit horatiosgarden.org.uk.