David Nash at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

A grand day out today the the YSP.

We have been regular visitors to YSP since moving to the area 15 years ago. Just 5 minutes off junction 38 of the M1 you will find seveeral hundred acres of rolling parkland dotted with sculptures by Henry Moore, Anthony Claro, Barbara Hepworth and many more. A few years ago they built a new visitor centre with a great cafe and indoor gallery spaces. They have a rolling program of exhibitions, a couple of the most memorable for me have been a major Hepworth retrospective and last years Andy Goldsworthy exhibition.

The current show is the lifetimes work of chainsaw sculptor David Nash. I have never been a big fan of Nash, whereas with Hepworth, Moore, Goldsworthy, Richard Long, Brancusi I find most pieces of interest and maybe one in five are really great with Nash I find the hit rate is rather lower. The work tends to feel a little formulaic and frankly as someone who can use a chainsaw well I generally feel I could, if I chose to, make similar pieces. With Long there is genuine artistic innovation and with Goldsworthy there is just a very high level of craftsmanship and an eye for beauty which is impressive. So I was not expecting to be wowed by the show but always enjoy a walk around the parkland anyway.

I came away far more impressed than I had been previously. Nash has been highly prolific and there were a huge number of pieces, too many in fact and they were crammed in, the good and the average all together. I think if only the best 50% had been shown with a little more space and impact it would have been very impressive.

Here are a few of my favourite pieces. A number of columns carved over several years, click for a larger image, the one in the centre I particularly liked and may even make one for the garden.

These are big. chainsaw carved then burnt, the globe at top of the hill is very big indeed though made up from beams rather than carved from a single lump.

The museum staff were comparing this to a Brancusi, it is an impressive big chainsaw sculpture but it is no Brancusi.

This is a flight of steps, all blackened by scorching and with coal between, my mate Andy is inspecting them with critical eye as he works on the footpath team at the Peak District National Park and installs many steps. We enjoyed the piece being called “an intervention” and will have great fun next time we are bridge building or step building proclaiming ourselves to be making “interventions”.

For me though the works that were best were the simplest and with the least pretensions, here a cube, a sphere and a pyramid, carved and scorched.

The best (for me) piece of all is easy to miss. In the bothy there is a video of a wooden boulder Nash carved around 1970. He dropped it into a stream near his home and photographed and filmed it for 30 years as it gradually made it’s way toward the sea.

YSP is always worth a visit if you are driving up the M1 and if you need an excuse for a day out then this show is definitely worth going to see.

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