The amazing sculptures of Giles Rayner
Water and sculptures are nothing new in gardens, but one Cotswold artist is combining the two, says Mandy Bradshaw
Knowing the sleek lines of Giles Rayner’s work, I half expect his studio to have the same contemporary edge, something that reflects the innovative nature of his pieces. In fact, his workspace is an old barn devoid of any frills and set in the heart of the Cotswold countryside near Tetbury.
Of course, it is the perfect place for art that is essentially man and metal, a relationship conducted through powerful tools, heat and chemicals.
And the rural location suits Giles, who sees his work as a combination of creativity and engineering.
“What I love about living here in Stroud Valley is you have this industrial heritage mixed in with beautiful garden scenery,” he says.
When we meet, he’s finishing a piece that’s destined for Bath Rugby Club and it’s filling the barn; I’m warned not to touch it as Giles has just applied nitric acid to give the copper an aged bluegreen patina.
Shiny copper is nice but it can be quite hard to keep long-term,” he explains.
Three twisted spheres made of more than 300 pieces of metal are being welded together with the metal pipework a conduit for water that will magically appear from a series of jets. Such is the complexity of the piece, there are three separate controls, allowing the water pressure to be minutely controlled.
“I wanted to get a real lightness to the circle,” says Giles, gazing at the mass of copper and turquoise metal. “With a lot of the pieces I do try to get this ethereal lightness, which works quite well with the water. It brings them alive.”
Certainly, there is something mesmerising about his sculptures be they sinewy loops, geometric cubes or vast whirlpools where the water seems almost to cling to the sides of basins, tempting you to run fingers through it.
His pieces are installed across the country and abroad in America, Thailand and Sweden. He exhibits regularly at Chelsea Flower Show and has contributed sculpture to several nursery stands and show gardens; this year, he made a ‘lemon peel’ piece for David Neale’s Space to Grow garden celebrating Silent Pool gin.
Yet, it was a career that wasn’t meant to be. Giles, who studied business economics at Exeter University, was destined for a job in finance. Having earned some money with a City summer job, he decided to travel, first to Botswana and then to Switzerland where a snowboarding accident left him in plaster for three months.
“I realised I could not sit at a desk when I came back,” he recalls.
Returning to his family’s Devon home, he helped his father build a fountain for a holiday cottage complex. A request for something similar for Burncoose Nurseries’ Chelsea stand followed.
The Arches of Oman, by Giles Rayner
Cotswold artist sculptor Giles Rayner