While some might have called it a botched job, French carpenter Denis Tricot knew he wanted to be a sculptor when a commission to make school shelves didn’t go the way he expected.

“What I sought, even when making furniture, were new inventions, exploring different ways of making the same thing,” says Tricot through his translator Bettina Linstrum.

“When I completed the work, the shelves looked like they were moving, they were slanting forwards to the right. I knew then that I had made my first sculpture and that I wanted to be an artist.”

His second project saw him combine performance and fire sculpture – an area he has explored ever since.

And it was this work which led to Tricot being commissioned to make a piece commemorating the anniversary of the fire that consumed the main hall at Nymans in 1947, as part of a National Trust pilot project.

Built out of poplar wood and nylon string, the three-dimensional sculpture will be in Nymans’ gardens from tomorrow, before being set alight to a musical accompaniment to mark the anniversary of the stately home’s devastating fire in Duo Du Feu on Wednesday, February 19.

The sculpture has been inspired by Nymans’ extensive gardens.

“I have a keen interest in botany and the fine example of English landscaping provides a beautiful canvas,” says Tricot.

“The emerging landscapes, the three-dimensional perspectives or depths and scale stand out. The ruin is a natural finale; the garden leads up to that point as if the ruin is part of the plantation.”

The sculpture, whose burning will be accompanied by Hungarian gypsy music from cellist and singer Vania Dombrovszky, is part of his desire to make transient artwork.

“Sculpture is a gesture, it’s movement, not stasis,” he says. “The sculpture exists when I make it. In my work, I would like to put wind into people’s heads [akin to blowing away the cobwebs] and steal their attention for a bit in the nicest way.

“My forms give birth to new spaces that weren’t there before. My work can stay for some time in situ, but the materials will eventually deteriorate. “I like the idea that my work remains ephemeral, that it doesn’t become a habitual presence, something that’s always there. The audience looks at it afresh and once it’s gone there are some memories that remain.”

Tricot describes his work as “drawing with sculpture and also drawing with fire”. Flames play a part in the Mortagne-based artist’s next project – a fire opera under the stars called Ciel (or sky). “The blaze is the most fragile part,” he says. “The elements influence the nature and behaviour of the flames – this part is outside my control. The challenges of the live event create the atmosphere for artist and audience, which makes it so rewarding as an experience.”

“Nymans has a long artistic heritage,” says Nymans’ marketing officer Lisa Davies pointing to previous owners the Messel family’s links to stage designer Oliver Messel and society photographer Lord Snowdon.

“We felt the Messels might have approved of our fire evening; they were incredibly creative and innovative, so a ceremonial burning on the anniversary of the house fire may well have appealed to their sense of drama and theatre. It will look spectacular.”

The installation is one of the first pilot projects under the Arts Council England-funded Outdoors Arts initiative, in partnership with the National Trust. The aim is to connect more people to National Trust locations through contemporary art and craft.

  • Denis Tricot – Fire And Sculpture, Nymans, Handcross, near Haywards Heath, Saturday, January 11, to Wednesday, February 19
  • Open daily 10am to 4pm, tickets £10.50/£5.50.
  • Duo Du Feu: Wednesday, February 19, 6.30pm, free but ticketed. Call 01444 405250.