Taking art outside is one of the most exciting ways to add character to an outdoor space. Outdoor art can range from large installations to more subtle pieces, and there are many ways to incorporate it into a garden, courtyard or balcony.
When choosing outdoor art, there are two things to consider: balance within the outdoor area and your own taste. Art is a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong when it comes to selecting a piece. With that said, you should consider the size and scale of a piece and where it will go in a garden. A well-chosen piece of art captures attention without detracting from other elements in the space.
In the image above, the rusted metal has an earthy feel that works well with the aesthetic of the space, and its scale complements the height of the trees and smaller plants. The shape is also important, as a piece with harsh lines or angles would have created too much contrast with the organic shapes of the path and planting scheme.
Whether large or small, a piece of art becomes a natural focal point in the garden, so your first step should be to identify where you want to position it. Then consider the following:
Look for pieces that will reference the colours or forms of your home or nearby architecture.
Ensure the piece is in proportion with the surrounding plants or built surfaces.
Consider how the shape of the art will contrast with the rest of the garden.
One thing to consider is that outdoor art doesn’t have to be art in the traditional sense. Using natural materials such as the basalt obelisk below is a great way to create form and function that is in sync with the flow of the space. Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden in Sydney is a great example of outdoor art positioned so that it feels like part of the natural landscape.
Less is more
Both of these pieces are subtle, yet they have the right amount of impact for their respective settings. The soft curve and colouration of the empty urn is an ideal complement to an unstructured planting scheme, while the form of the rock sculpture lends itself to a more structured style of design. The use of a white sculpture in front of a white wall is an interesting choice that carries on the more formal aesthetic of this space.
In both of these gardens, the surrounding plants frame the art and each piece of art is the right height and scale for its immediate setting. When positioning art in planted settings like these, choose evergreen plants to maintain year-round impact. Plants like grasses are ideal for complementing art that has movement to it, while more structured plants like hedges will bring form to a structured garden or more traditional piece of art.
Small space outdoor art
In small spaces such as balconies and rooftops, there are ways to integrate without sacrificing functional living space. Wall art is a simple addition for these spaces, but there are also other ways you can transform common garden elements into artistic features.
This small courtyard is another great example of less in more. The large potted tree adds height and scale to the space, which contrasts well with the metallic vessel and stools. The stools are not only functional, but they also become sculptural pieces when not in use. In spaces like this where there is a direct connection to an indoor space, positioning the art so that it is visible from inside is a great way to get more enjoyment from it.
On this rooftop in New York, the designers have cleverly transformed the built surface into a sculptural feature. This is a great solution for small outdoor areas, where you may not have the floor or wall to accommodate a piece of art. Likewise, this retaining wall is another clever example of how you can transform built surfaces into sculptural focal points.
This is a simple idea for a small space that transforms a potted plant into an artistic element come nightfall. If you spend a lot of time in your space during the evening, lighting an existing feature is a simple way to make a statement. This works best when the feature has a unique or striking form. If you do invest in outdoor art, lighting is something to think about when you install it, so that you can continue to enjoy it after dark.
When positioning a piece of art, place it in a spot where it won’t be competing for attention. Generally speaking, art should be allowed to stand on its own and if you do have multiple pieces, try to scatter them around the garden so they can be ‘discovered’ and admired individually. With this said, repetition does work well for pieces that are visually similar, such as the water features above or a series of sculptures that form a collection.
This tactic works in both small and large outdoor areas and is especially effective in spaces such as entrance gardens, where the art pieces can be arranged to lead people towards the building.
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