MIRO: SCULPTOR. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 18-08-12

MIRO: SCULPTOR at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a major exhibition of Joan Miro’s work- his family have said that it is the most important exhibition of his sculpture that there has ever been, and the first in the UK. It is a perfect complement to last summer’s Miro exhibition at Tate Modern and anyone who has seen both will have been given the perfect introduction to his work if they knew little about him beforehand and if they were already familiar with him they will have had a timely reminder of an inventive and dynamic artist who had a long, productive career and produced a large body of work full of life and humour.

It is good to see a lot of the large works together, normally you would need to travel to Spain so we are very lucky. They are lively and animated and seem to be within shouting distance of each other, able to communicate and strike sparks off each other. None of them are abstract cold forms- they do everything but breathe, even movement is implied in most of them. They really live. I can confidently say what I think about them as Miro made it quite clear that any individual response to his work, whatever it is, was absolutely fine by him. What he made does not have an inner meaning which we need an artists statement to unravel. His pieces make their own statement, smiling out at us and reminding us that being alive is fresh, unique and funny. My favourite piece is Personnage 1970, a delightful character who seems to dance in front of us on his tapered legs, waving his tiny penis with the wide eyed innocence of a child. If I had spent a whole afternoon with him I think we might have become best friends. The largest piece, Personnage Gothique, 1976 has been given a prime site with a background of hills and it accepts the compliment without arrogance, waiting for the parade of watching visitors, perhaps acolytes, perhaps friends, with a still calm confidence. Miro’s paintings and prints can be dark and very moving when he allies this joy and love of life to the suffering and pain which he saw around him, but these large works are just a simple pleasure to look at.

Inside the spaces of the underground gallery there is a fine collection of smaller work which uses found objects and sometimes colour as well as stone to fill the rooms with life. There are some stunning giant prints on the walls alongside them which explode with colour. No wonder his signature always comes with an exclamation mark.This is a joyous, uplifting exhibition which reminds us all, even those who see tragedy and violence around them as Miro himself did when he was young, that life is worth living and something to be celebrated.


David Nash at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 24-02-11

David Nash richly deserves his major retrospective at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He has been working for forty years now, mostly using a chainsaw, blowtorch and axe to make his pieces in unseasoned wood, sourced only from fallen trees which become available naturally. While the methods he uses to make his work may be quite violent and destructive the end result is a exhibition full of elegant simple forms and quiet dignity. His great skill lies in his knowledge of and love of his material. He makes careful and informed choices and he can see possibilities, some of which may take many years to come to fruition. He has the insight, after working with it for so long, to choose the right piece of wood and allow it to do what it wants to do with his help, breathing new life into it as a gallery object. At times, as in Oculus Block, one of the most beautiful works in the exhibition, his intervention is quite minimal. The beauty of three eucalyptus trees which grew together in Northern California and welded into a single form has been allowed to shine out, carved into a massive cube.

Nash is interested in how his chosen material grows and changes over time. This fascination began very early on in his career when he carved nine balls in wood and found that after a time they cracked open and “smiled” at him, showing him the way forward for his work. He carves into unseasoned wood and then watches it change and develop, sometimes intervening regularly in the process and sometimes not. This change may happen thanks to environmental conditions if the work is outside or simply because of the nature of wood itself as it dries out and seasons. There is a lovely piece in the exhibition called cracking box made in 1992 which is a real celebration of what wood can do. It has warped into an irregular and beautiful parody of what Nash originally made, as if the tree that it came from is still alive in the gallery.








Nash has made a new permanent piece set out in the park, Three Stones For Three Trees, which will change and develop with time as the trees increase in size and their relationship with the stone that they have been given changes.There is a pleasing simplicity about the idea of giving a gift to a tree, a kind of tribute and an acknowledgment of its longevity, and you never know, they may even grow together.

Nash’s work Wooden boulder began in 1978 and in a sense it is still ongoing. Video and sketches in the Garden gallery tell the story of a simple wooden boulder which Nash was in the process of bringing back down a stream after carving it on site in North Wales when it became stuck at the top of a fall. It eventually worked loose and since then he has followed and recorded its progress, occasionally helping it along the way, as it made the long journey out towards an estuary and the sea. After being missing for more than five years it reappeared in 2009. Its current whereabouts are unknown. A mysterious and magical journey.

damp and dry
burnt and buried
wood is given
we do not make it
in air it cracks
in fire it burns
in water floats
in earth returns

All photos are my own copyright other than the one of the wooden boulder (a still from the video of its progress) which was filmed by David Nash himself.


Andy Goldsworthy Retrospective. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 2-10-07

Andy Goldsworthy has been making beautiful thought provoking art for all my adult life. I wandered into his first exhibition in Leeds on my way to a heart check up, pretty scared, and was just awed by what I found. His retrospective at the YSP is well deserved and its good to see the breadth of what he does without having to open a book. Some of it is very macho- wood room for instance- and some of it heartbreakingly fragile. 10,500 leaf stalks held together in a curtain by blackthorns with an empty circle in the centre was probably my favourite piece. Stunning.