Not Vital at the YSP


After looking round the Hepworth Gallery last Saturday, we drove the few miles over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to take a look at the exhibition that opened a few weeks ago. As with other major exhibitions we’ve visited at the YSP there were a large number of works created from plaster, silver, gold, marble, glass,coal,  stainless steel and bronze, displayed both inside the Underground Gallery and outdoors in the gardens, with a few works showing in the small Garden Gallery.


Not Vital. I assumed that this was an ironic name of a collective of artists. It couldn’t possibly be someone’s name. But checking with one of the YSP’s staff in the Underground Gallery revealed that I was wrong. It was the name of a Swiss artist from Sent, a village in the Lower Engadin region of Switzerland. He’s Romansh and that’s his “mother tongue” ,so I guess that explains his unusual name, his surname being pronounced Veetahl.


The YSP’s website provides some biographical details

Internationally renowned as a leading sculptor, this is Not Vital’s first major exhibition in the UK. With studios in the tiny Swiss village of Sent and Beijing, China, as well as homes in Rio de Janeiro and Niger, the exhibition reflects Vital’s nomadic and diverse practice

His work encompasses sculpture, drawing, painting, ceramics and architecture, and there were examples of all of these included in the exhibition.

We looked round the Underground Gallery first

These four self portraits, distorted in various ways and perched on top of tall poles, were displayed in the entrance hall


The first of the galleries contained Last Supper, a work specially created for the exhibition on the back wall of the room. 12 black head shapes with a 13th which was white and only visible on close inspection. In front of the wall there were 5 precarious looking Walking Benches


In the second gallery, my favourite work – Heads (2013). Crafted from panels of stainless steel they reflected the surrounding surfaces, as well as visitors in the room


The third gallery contained a number of works, most of which were clearly influenced by his native land.


This sculpture at first glance resembled the antlers of a mountain goat, but attatched to it were letters that spelled out the name of the work – Nietzsche.


I particularly liked this glass globe containing a snowball (is it real?)


There were more “snowballs” splattered against one of the walls

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The final room in the Underground Gallery – the Project Space – is used to display contextual materials such as sketchbooks, maquettes, models and the like and videos. For this exhibition the space was filled with models of architectural structures designed by the artist. Some have been realised and constructed in various parts of the world – in the Brazilian Amazon, Belgium, Chilean Patagonia, Indonesia, Niger, Switzerland, and the Philippines. – while others were conceptual.




Outdoors there were a number of large sculptures.

Moon (2005) was particularly popular with visitors and I was lucky to be able to get a shot without anyone in the way. A polished stainless steel sphere pocked with craters, each one individually made by Chinese craftsmen and based on photographs of the moon; little concave mirrors which produced multiple inverted reflections of the viewer.


A towering Tongue (2008) standing tall in the Bothy garden. An abstract stainless steel sculpture modelled on a cow’s tongue.


These porcelain Heads (2016) were created for the exhibition. Like the other large pieces they were designed by the artist but realised by craftsmen in Jingdezhen, the porcelain capital of China.


The sculptures represent symbolic heads and on top of each of them is a representation of the chimneys from the coal-fired kilns that were once used to fire the pots but which, today, have been replaced by modern gas and electricity kilns.

On the roof of the Underground Gallery, a model of on of the artist’s architectural structures – A House to Watch the Sunset (200) which is located in Niger.


This installation, Let 100 Flowers Bloom (2005), was inspired by Mao Zedong’s call in 1956, encouraging the Chinese citizens to openly express their opinions of the communist regime. After a short period of liberalisation there was a crackdown on anyone who did express criticism of the regime.


The work consists of 100 large stainless steel lotus buds and stems laid out on the ground.


These ceramic pieces were on display in the small Garden Gallery


together with the Laos Series of abstract paper works


So, another interesting and stimulating exhibition at the YSP introducing us to another artist we were unaware of.

3 thoughts on “Not Vital at the YSP

  1. Pingback: A Winter’s Day at the YSP | Down by the Dougie

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