Friday, June 15, 2012

A Natural Gallery

On Saturday, the only rain-free day so far this month, we headed across London to see David Nash At Kew: A Natural Gallery.  Looking now at the website I see it suggests capturing 'a lasting memory of your visit to the exhibition with one of our exclusive products. Each item in our very special collection reflects the spirit and ethos of David Nash.'  We failed to buy any of the Nash-inspired homeware, but I'm hoping instead to retain a lasting memory of our visit by uploading a few photographs here.  The sculptures on show were much as you would expect, some more striking than others, but the location for each was well chosen to echo or contrast with the surrounding trees and buildings.  In her review Laura Cumming thinks Nash suffers by comparison: 'a park filled with so many stunning variations on the essential tree form is bound to throw an emphasis on beauty (and variety) that is not always kind to this artist, whose work is so much the result of conspicuous labour.'  Ultimately, none of the sculptures were as interesting to me as the film of Wooden Boulder, which you can see along with Nash's drawings and photographs in Kew's Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.  I have described here before this floating sculpture and its eventual disappearance in the sea, although I was writing prior to the boulder's brief rediscovery in 2009.  The film begins with grainy images of the boulder entering the river and ends with beautifully shot and recorded footage of it floating and resting along the estuary among the reeds and sandbanks.

The photograph above shows the Wood Quarry, where David Nash is making sculptures at Kew Gardens using old or diseased trees.  Kew's head of trees Tony Kirkham has taken comfort from seeing a victim of "acute oak decline" gradually transformed by Nash into an artwork.  'The neighbouring tree was also poorly, but has recovered dramatically. "Saying to it 'Buck up or there's a man coming for you with a chainsaw' seems to have worked," Kirkham said.'  As artist in residence, Nash has welcomed the chance to reveal to visitors how he goes about his work as a sculptor.  'I’ve often felt that in the shows I’ve done before, much of the process is hidden. What’s unique about Kew is to make the process part of the exhibition.’  Unfortunately there was no sign of him last Saturday, but you can see him working among the upended trees in the video clip below.  I would like to have seen how he interacts with members of the public (in a recent post I mentioned the group walk Hamish Fulton organised to accompany his Margate exhibition - no talking allowed...)  It is quite hard to imagine Nash chatting with bystanders, but I imagine many would in any case be shy of striking up conversation with someone wearing ear protectors and wielding a chainsaw.  

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