The Cactus House

11 May — 3 Jul 2017 at the Hignell Gallery in London, United Kingdom

18 MARCH 2017
The Cactus House. Courtesy of Hignell Gallery
The Cactus House. Courtesy of Hignell Gallery

Contemporary sculpture specialist Hignell Gallery is proud to announce The Cactus House , sculptor Ben Russell’s debut exhibition with the gallery. Curated by director Abby Hignell, The Cactus House presents Russell’s hand-carved sculptures, set against an immersive display of greenery designed by Conservatory Archives . Coinciding with The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the exhibition takes place from the 11 May and 3 July, 2017.

Whilst working at his leafy Dorset studio, heritage conservator and sculptor Ben Russell found inspiration in the unique way that light passes through the flesh of a cactus. Having long been influenced by nature and organic forms, Russell works with the translucent properties of alabaster to recreate the effect in sculptural form. Russell has expanded his collection to reflect the variety within the cactus family. New materials such as Portland limestone and Onyx stone allow him to produce a range of shapes and textures. His method is a painstaking process of sanding and polishing, resulting in a luminous sheen to the surface of the stone.

The Cactus House marks the first major showcase of Ben Russell’s bespoke works at Hignell Gallery. Having won the prestigious Duke of Gloucester award for carving and stone masonry in 2012, Ben worked in heritage conservation across London, on numerous historic buildings and façades such as The Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament. In recent years, however, he has shifted his artisan practice toward contemporary sculpture, applying traditional techniques to a range of new materials. Hignell Gallery is a space which prides itself on showcasing this interplay between fine art and craftsmanship and Russell’s cactus sculptures combine the technical skill he has developed over the years with a vision influenced by artists such as Constantin Brancusi. Brancusi also placed an emphasis on ensuring that a sculpture’s environment, or ‘House’, was as much an artwork as the piece itself, echoing Russell’s interest in creating sculpture designed for a domestic environment.

Coinciding with The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, The Cactus House celebrates natural plant forms with an immersive display of Russell’s work in context with a display created by East London’s Conservatory Archives who specialise in indoor plant design.

Abby Hignell, Director of Hignell Gallery said: “We’re delighted to be part of London’s annual celebration of The Chelsea Flower Show with this very special exhibition. I have always had a passion for the Temperate and Cacti houses at Kew Gardens. They are an infinite inspiration of sculptural forms displayed in beautiful naturally lit interior. They have great affinity with a sculpture gallery space. You walk into a different world which becomes an immersive multi sensory experience.

This installation explores nature in art and art in nature. Ben Russell’s love and knowledge of stone is really celebrated in the endless variety of cactus shapes. The different stones which he has skilfully hand carved - alabaster, travertine, onyx, Italian marble, portland limestone, are each as unique as the plants themselves.” Ben Russell, Sculptor said: “I’m excited to be exhibiting my work at Hignell Gallery in May. The Cactus House will be a showcase of over three months of carving to explore the unique and unusual forms of various cacti.

I am approaching each block of stone with only a vague notion of what I wish to capture and feel that this has allowed each piece to emerge in an organic and natural way. The idea came to me when I noticed the beautiful way in which light penetrates through the flesh of certain cacti and succulents. I set out to capture this using semi translucent stones which in sunlight come alive with a warm glow unveiling the veining within.”