Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: David Nash at Kew - A Natural Gallery

I'm going to have to go back to Kew Gardens to find more of the sculptures by David Nash in his exhibition of sculpture David Nash at Kew - A Natural Gallery. I reckon I found about two thirds of them on Wednesday - but missed some of the really good ones.

The sculptures in wood and bronze are located around the gardens and in the Temperate House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Cork Dome - (2012) cork oak
©  David Nash
The first ever sculpture Nash has made using Cork Oak.
Cork Dome is the sculpture Nash is most excited about. It is an entirely new work, built onsite at Kew Gardens. It's also the first Nash has made from cork oak. He was inspired to make it while visiting the cork harvest in Portugal.
Cork Dome
This is an index of all the works by Nash which are on display in Kew Gardens
  • If you click on the image it takes you to a page for each sculture.
  • On that page it tells you how the work was made and what Nash thinks of it
This is my video of the works I saw.  It's a combination of film and stills of sculptures

The thing which is very striking (an ironic comment) is the way the sculptures blend beautifully into the gardens.  It's ever so easy to miss them.  Perhaps unsurprising given that they are wood.  Except some of them are actually bronze.  I was absolutely amazed by the bronze sculptures I came across in a little grove near the Temperate House and then again in the Temperate House.

One of them - Black Butt - looks exactly as if it's a charred sphere of wood - and it's actually 100% bronze.  I had no idea it was possible to reproduce wood in this way.

Black Butt by David Nash
I was very struck by the fact that he has developed pairs of sculptures called King and Queen.

King and Queen 1 (2011) Bronze
©  David Nash

This is because this is something Henry Moore did some time ago and I wondered if this was some sort of homage to Henry Moore.  (see my post about my trip to Hoglands - Sculpture in the garden at Hoglands, Perry Green, my Flickr set Henry Moore Sculptures, Hoglands, Perry Green and his King and Queen).  Moore's King and Queen 1952also in Bronze seems to be positively realistic compared to Nash's pared down versions.   He comments about the 2011 version that the eye holes he gave them make them rather more animated when compared to earlier versions.

Crack and Warp (2010) Lime (a small section of a tower)
©  David Nash
My favourite sculpture - of the ones I saw on Wednesday - is an odd one.  It's called Crack and Warp. It's made of Lime and can be found in the Temperate House. I found it to be almost abstract and spiritual at the same time.  I gather Nash thinks this is the best column he has made so far.

One of the interesting things I found when looking at the sculptures is that I started looking a lot more closely at the rest of the trees in terms of their shapes and surfaces and crinkles and wrinkles -  you can seen this a little in the video I made - here are a couple of photos I took of trees in the garden.  One of those chicken and egg situations!

Purple Hybrid Catalpa
Pinus Negra
There is also an exhibition of his work in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery - these are best seen in my video or

I found the Family Tree drawing at the entrance to be a fascinating explanation of how his work has developed over time and what links to what.

It's also makes the black, brown and red elements of his work more obvious.  This reminded me of the ancient colours of those who created drawings in caves a very long time ago.

Family Tree - a diagrammatic explanation of the development of his work
©  David Nash
In essence there is something very elemental about his work - he starts from a tree and lets it guide his work.  He shapes it with a chain saw, sometimes burns it to create carbonised versions - and then transforms some wood sculptures into bronze.

I highly recommend a visit to all those interested in form, shape and texture - but do make sure you allow enough time - there's an awful lot to see and absorb.

The catalogue is a very reasonable price and shows more about how works are created (I liked the process diagrams) and those works which are created on land near where he lives in North Wales.

Do also explore the exhibition website - it's both comprehensive and interesting and appears to reflect a lot of effort by Kew Garden staff as well as the monumental works of David Nash.


1 comment:

  1. I will have to go back and take another look at this now it's fully available to view. I visited when it was being installed and wrote about it here..

    It looked great even when wrapped !


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