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Tania Kovats' practice is focused on landscape, its geological formations and the cultural significance of places such as coastlines, islands and mountains.


Location: Madeira Cove

Kovats was invited to create a work specifically as part of the re-landscaping of Madeira Cove gardens, a place in which the view out to sea provides an expansive and contemplative setting and which has historically hosted a number of entertainments including the Rozel Bandstand and a small theatre.

One of the principal features of the view from Madeira Cove is Steep Holm island, a remote nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Bristol Channel. It is this island which was the inspiration for HOLM, a sculpture cast in pale concrete which replicates the distinctive landmass of Steep Holm in miniature.

‘My response to Madeira Cove,’ the artist suggests, ‘comes from how the distinctive landmass of Steep Holm punctuates the horizon. It is a poetic eye catcher, mysterious and utopian. Although close to densely populated land and in a busy shipping channel, it exists remotely as a protected wilderness.’

For HOLM, the artist considered the rockery gardens as one landscape within another: Madeira Cove as a smaller bay within the vast sweep of the bay of Weston-super-Mare. Kovats’ proposals for the gardens’ renewal took inspiration from the distinctive characteristics and native plants of Steep Holm. Landscape architects Grant Associates developed these proposals and designed a new viewing platform for horizon-gazing at Madeira Cove, opening up views across the bay, with the sculpture HOLM at its centre. Native planting has also been re-introduced into the gardens and Steep Holm’s distinctive combination of layering rock formations and man-made concrete interventions have inspired the contemporary treatment of the site.

HOLM is a mirroring object of sorts, drawing the viewer’s attention to the illusion of scale brought on by the wide expanse of sea. In her consideration of the miniature, the gigantic and the souvenir, Professor Susan Stewart has suggested that, ‘there are no miniatures in nature; the miniature is a cultural product, the product of an eye performing certain operations, manipulating, and attending in certain ways to, the physical world…’ The miniature, Stewart argues, operates out of time, linked as it is to toys and childhood games, and, ‘once we attend to the miniature world, the outside world stops and is lost to us.’1

Kovats has long had an obsession with islands – drawing and mapping them, creating bodies of work around both imaginary and existing islands. In Driften (1994), she worked with the British Geological Survey to produce a geological map of her imaginary island, and more recently, was awarded the chance to travel to the Galapagos Islands to develop new island works. In one large series of drawings she mapped All the Islands of All the Oceans (2005). Kovats also works sculpturally, often in response to what she refers to as ‘geologically explicit landscapes’ where the narrative evidence of processes such as erosion, shifting, eruption, compression and subsidence can be clearly seen.

Kovats has worked extensively in the public realm, including her major commission for the Natural History Museum for the Darwin bi-centenary with her work TREE (2009). But it is the coastal landscape that her work frequently returns to, ever since early works such as Vera, based on the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. ‘The coast is the edge of the landmass, and as an island nation it defines our boundaries,’ she suggests. ‘It’s also where you can see what the landmass is physically made of, as well as it being the viewing platform for the horizon.’


1 Susan Stewart, On Longing Narratives of the Miniature the Gigantic the Souvenir, the Collection (Duke University Press, 1993), p. 67

Tania Kovats in association with landscape architects Grant Associates

Tania Kovats was born in the UK, 1966 and lives and works in south west England. Her recent solo exhibitions include TREE, Natural History Museum, London (2009), Catch This, Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2008), Museum of the White Horse, a nationally touring horsebox museum, and Small Finds, Peer, London (2007). Recent group shows include Edge of the World, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh (2010), Earthscapes, Sherbourne House Arts (2010), A Duck For Mr. Darwin, BALTIC, Gateshead (2009), and You’ll Never Know. Drawing and Random Interference, Hayward Gallery, London (2006).

Grant Associates specialise in ecologically-based design, creating distinctive projects which combine useful and sustainable landscapes with contemporary character. Their work is characterised by a desire to encourage connections between people and nature; engaging us through carefully articulated and poetic designs that combine an understanding of science and the natural world as well as a sense of playfulness and human enjoyment.



With thanks to:

James Armstrong, Concrete Bloc

Rob Treble, Treble Landscape Design

Peter Lock, PML Signs 

For participating in the Planting Day:

Dean Harris
Steven Harrison
Chris Maslen
Jennifer Smith
Joy Wilson