Out Now!

Friday, 21 June 2019

It's not FGM but then we're not trees

A mountain of cork as you enter.

A week or two ago we went to the David Nash exhibition in Cardiff. (Who he? I would have been the first to ask) but it was an interesting experience, seeing ‘wood’ in so many guises.  In an interview with the Guardian, he said:
 “I’d like people who visit to think they have been engaged with something, taken out of their normal chain of thought and feeling. I’d like to think people will find it joyful.”
Joyful wasn’t my initial experience, but slowly, accumulatively, I saw ‘wood’ in an entirely different way.

He rejoices in the texture of wood, here the trunk, and below it's top, which resembles the surface of 
an alien planet. 

This has been charred and then rubbed with linseed oil.

Nash doesn’t just sculpt windfall and dead trees, he buggers about with live trees; unobjectionable in most cases. I particularly liked his ‘Ash dome,’ a circle of 22 trees planted in a secret Ffestiniog vally in 1977. Guests are escorted there blindfolded so that the location remains concealed. Unfortunately ash dieback is killing his piece of living sculpture, which Nash accepts as part of the art. “Fungus is a natural force.” Undeterred his dying ash dome is now encircled by 22 oak saplings, which in time will replace it.

What I did find objectionable (on a primitive gut level reaction) was his treatment of living birch trees in the interests of art. He has planted a copse of them but allows no branches. As soon as one shows it is neatly lopped off to encourage straightness and height – a copse of silver birch spears. I don’t like gelding pets, docking ears or tails, and I hate with a vengeance the Japanese art of Bonsai where trees are deliberately dwarfed by ruthlessly trimming their roots. It’s not FGM, but then we are not trees.

Nash is getting on a bit now and his outlook is perhaps understandably jaundiced.

“People are parasites, the land’s slowly dying.”

“There’s a certain dullness I can feel. I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s actually there. I can feel a lack of vibrancy in the land. When I look at the Moelwyn Mountains, which I’ve looked at since I was four years old, they don’t seem to have that dynamic they used to have. There’s something in the texture maybe. It’s a feeling not a fact.” I imagine it’s a feeling shared by most old codgers, either that or he needs to visit ‘SpecSavers.’

There’s no doubt David Nash is one hell of fine artist. Also a visionary in the style of an Old Testament prophet:

“We are killing ourselves. There are too many of us. I think there will be some huge plague or pestilence.”

And then every tree will breathe with relief.

And for those who'd like to see more of his exhibits

A nice Henge like quality, but again close ups invite you to explore the texture of wood.

Is it just me or am I seeing fossilised 'Pac Men' 

One lugubrious serpent

Two lugubrious serpents

And the rest, feel free to label as you see them

A close up of a larger piece, purely for texture


DRC said...

There is a natural beauty to wood, and especially trees. I totally get that. And the top of that tree stump reminds me of the sun-scorched planet from the film Riddick. So alien planet? Yeah, I get that too. I do like some of the wood carvings you see from loggers and their chainsaws. Very talented people.

Maria Zannini said...

I'm fascinated by wood sculpture, though I'm on the fence about the living wood sculpture. It sounds like he's more concerned with the art than the health of the trees.

Mike Keyton said...

DRC I think the Chain-Saw sculptures are less craftsmen than visionaries. They 'see' what's already there
and merely play with it.

Mike Keyton said...

Maria, I think he has a love affair with trees - on his terms. Apropos what I said to DRC, I think there's a huge gulf
in skill and vision between someone like Grinling Gibbons who with great artistry imposed his vision on wood and Nash cooperating with what's already there