2019, Cambridgeshire, UK         


Straw, timber, string, 9.5 x 8.5 x 8.5 m

Commissioned by Wysing Arts Centre for ‘New Geographies’
Supported by Arts Council England and the National Trust

MOTHER … is an artwork that engages with the connections between the natural world and our mental health. It was inspired by Richard Mabey’s memoir Nature Cure, in which he describes recovering from severe depression through walking, watching, and writing about the landscapes of eastern England. The sculpture was commissioned by the late Donna Lynas, director of nearby Wysing Arts Centre, as part of ‘New Geographies’, which brought contemporary art to unexpected places in the region. All the locations were nominated by the public. In this case, the Wicken Fen Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire was suggested for its ‘sublime peaty landscape’.

MOTHER … references local building traditions, materials, and architectural vernacular to root the structure in its landscape. The form is an interpretation of the hayricks once found dotting this countryside. The timber used in the framing was felled from the artists’ own forest in Wales and milled by them at their workshops. The walls and roof are made from local straw, the thatching of which has been done in the traditional style by a master thatcher whose first job as an apprentice was to thatch a hayrick on this very site. The work, with its deep entranceways, ceiling oculus, and high double-­layered conical ceiling, is an architectural space to enter, altering one’s experience of the surrounding landscape, sky, light, and materials. As Ivan Morison says, ‘You sit on one of its twenty-seven seats with the straw at your back, breathing in the natural smells of wood, straw, and wildlife. Owls are nesting in it – it’s beautiful to see them swooping in and out. The doorways are very long and narrow, reframing the view of the overwhelmingly horizontal landscape. We hope it’s a way for people to appreciate the natural environment anew.’
The vessel-like form of the shelter, alongside its title, connotes universal ideas of protection, nurturing, and birth. For Heather Peak, the work suggests protection of another kind too. ‘I have depression. I am well at the moment, but I know that, when I am ill, being outside and having somewhere to shelter and sit is very useful. MOTHER … means to be soothing and restful, but also acknowledges the anger, frustration, and sheer terror that can be the mind. You cannot get away from your head. MOTHER … is like another head to step inside for a short while, with her own space, smell, form, and light. She is meant to be strong, wise, and compassionate, which is what I need when I am poorly.’


‘Such is the Morisons’ sensitivity to place and materials, the work, with its evocative and timeless shape, sits within the haunting landscape of Wicken Fen as though it had always been there. It is the artists’ intention that the work, tucked away in a remote part of the site, is encountered within the silence of the fen, offering solace and refuge to those who wish to sit within it – the structure can be entered through three doors around its perimeter. MOTHER … conjures up the ghosts of fen hayricks, from which it takes its shape, and both takes us back in time to another era when the shape would have been a familiar one to this region whilst also reminding us that in the current present, it is important to find moments of silence and solitude.’

Donna Lynas, late director, Wysing Arts Centre

Photographers’ credits       

Installation images_Charles Emerson / Performance_Stephen King

Love Me or Leave Me Alone        


Love Me or Leave Me Alone, The Very Public Art of Heather Peak and Ivan Morison presents a journey through the past decade and a half of the artists’ practice, with an emphasis on their pavilions, escape vehicles, and public artworks.  The book can be ordered from the publishers Art/Books
Press contact        

If you can’t find the information you are looking for you can contact the studio of Heather Peak and Ivan Morison here: studio@peakmorison.org