Our journey back north was broken for a stop over with old friends Penny & Brian in Caerleon, Gwent. They drove us into Cardiff and the national gallery & museum of Wales to catch the current main show: ‘David Nash 200 Seasons at Capel Dewi’ Nash is one of the country’s leading exponents of land art; an Englishman who, for the last 50 years, has lived and worked with his family in a converted chapel at Blaneau Ffestiniog in north Wales.
Fresh from of our holiday home in the wildwood that now covers the remains of mining we were ripe to respond to the wonders in wood produced by this original and influential artist. This retrospective exhibition reflects a wide body of work created in a post industrial slate producing enclave like Blaneau within the wider hinterland of rural Snowdonia. The 73 year old sculptor operates with chainsaw, axe and blowtorch on an large scale, producing outdoor works made from living woods or indoor ones of recycled timbers in geometric variations – cube, sphere and pyramid.
Nash’s most famous works are still both in motion back in north Wales: Wooden Boulder (begun 1978) and Ash Dome (begun 1977). Videos in the exhibition documented their conception, history & development. Wooden Boulder is a crude oak ball the artist cut, fashioned and left by a stream. Over the years rain, wind and flood has moved it by fits and starts from mountainside to ocean and back again to estuary. Ash Dome is a living sculpture in a secret mountain location where ash saplings planted in a circle are cut each year to develop into an intersecting dome. (BBC4 viewers will be familiar with the work as a channel ident).
I particularly liked the conical oak bark sculpture made in co-operation with cork farmers in Portugal…its scale, texture and colouration. There’s a collection of major work here until end of show in September so feel really lucky to have experienced it. It’d be hard to take a walk amongst trees and not be engaged by David Nash’s inspiring take on the form and feel of wood.