The 'Custodians of the Landscape' sandstone sculpture collection was carved onsite at the Two Rivers vineyard in the winter of 2015 by renowned English artist Ben Dearnley. Ben has earned an international reputation for creating stunning sculptures in stone, bronze, slate and stained glass. He has complete many large-scale public and private works and they can be found across the globe.
The 'Custodians of the Landscape' project saw Ben work with sandstone for the first time and these carvings directly reference the ancient art form of stone masonry whilst reflecting the dramatic landscape at Two Rivers.
So how did an Englishman who lives on the west coast of Wales end up spending 12 weeks on a vineyard in the Upper Hunter? It all started back in 2007 when Ben was in Australia to catch up with his mother Bridget who retired to Denman many years ago. During this visit they spent the afternoon at the Two Rivers Cellar Door.
After enjoying a glass of wine and a cheese platter, Ben took a stroll through the vineyard to the top of the hill where he discovered a collection of sandstone boulders that had been unearthed during the construction of the vineyard many years ago. Ben's creative mind went into overdrive and he formulated a plan where he could return to Australia to embark on a major sculpture project while at the same time spend some quality time with Bridget.
He contacted Brett & Linda Keeping from Two Rivers and they agreed it was a perfect synergy to create something spectacular for their cellar door and the project was born.
All the sandstone was sourced from Two Rivers property with more than 28 tonnes being used to create this unique and compelling project. Whilst crafting these pieces, Ben immersed himself in the working of the vineyard and the local community, sharing his skills and knowledge with visitors, school groups and other fellow artists.
Ben says that the flowing dynamic nature of the sculptures reflects the ever-changing moods and seasons of the vineyard where growing the vines is a labour of love in tune with nature itself. The collection of nine pieces of individual handcrafted sandstone all tie into the collections theme of 'looking after the landscape'.
Brett and Linda Keeping established the Two Rivers vineyard in 1988. Twenty-seven years on, Two Rivers has become one of the premier vineyards of the Hunter Valley and is known for producing distinctive regional wines that over deliver on quality and value.
Brett and Linda are strong believers in the philosophy that great wines are made in the vineyard and are truly passionate about their vines and their place in the Hunter Valley. Sustainable viticultural practices are at the heart of Two Rivers and the years of hard work are certainly paying off in the wine show circuit.
Two Rivers have amassed many trophies and numerous gold medals in recent years with their signature Stones Throw Semillon leading the way.
"Having an artist of Ben's calibre here at Two Rivers has been an absolute privilege," Brett Keeping said. "Ben immediately understood our connection to the land here and this is beautifully reflected in his work."