In the grounds at Chatsworth

Here’s a few more photographs that I took in the garden and grounds during our recent visit to Chatsworth

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Autumn colours were very evident





Besides the Beyond Limits exhibits, there are a number of permanantly sited contemporary sculptures in the Gardens.

We reckoned that this piece is by David Nash


A quick Google revealed that we were right. It’s called Oculus Oak and was only installed in October last year (2015).


We came on it by accident and as we are both fans of David Nash it was a pleasant surprise.


This work (Forms that Grow in the Night (2009)) is also by Nash, but we had seen it during our previous visits.


We hadn’t seen this retriever before, thoughDSC00853

Walking. Madonna (1981) by Elisabeth Frink


and Richard Long’s Cornish Slate Line, an attractive work by another favourite artist.


I don’t know who created this sculpture of a wild boar – well sited in the woods near one of the small lakes.


Outside the gardens in the grounds of the estate, walking back to our B and B we passed this bench. It was built by younger members of the Derbyshire branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA) using dry stone walling techniques.


Last year there was a different bench in this location. It seems that building a bench is an annual event as part of the Chatsworth Country Fair.

A little further down the path we could see a structure out in the field – in fact we’d spotted it in the morning while we were making our way to the house and gardens from our B and B. So we went to have a closer look.


It’s a sculpture made from oak and lead, by Tim Harrison entitled Pegasus

Modern Art at Chatsworth

In the past the aristocracy acted as patrons of the arts, buying and commissioning works by contemporary artists and building large collections. The current Duke of Devonshire has continued this tradition. Walking through the gardens at Chatsworth we came across a number of modern works.

This couldn’t be by anyone else but Richard Long. The Cornwall Slate Line is imaginatively sited running parallel to the canal.



There are several works by Elisabeth Frink. War Horse is appropriately sited in the stables courtyard.


This is her Lying Down Horse


Here’s a copy of one of her heads – I’ve seen a few other versions of this



This is a bust of Elisabeth Frink, a tribute by fellow artist Angela Conner


This Art Nouveau style gateway is in the hedge near the maze. I couldn’t find any information on it’s creator.


This is unmistakeably by Barry Flanagan. The drummer – a version of which stands outside the entrance to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.



A site specific work by David Nash, made of charred wood – Forms that grow in the night.



This is Dejeuner sur l’Herbe by the British sculptor, Allen Jones



There’s modern art displayed in the public areas of the house too. ‘This is Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain’ by Damien Hirst which is currently on semi-permanent display in Chatsworth’s sseventeenth century chapel. At first glance it looked as if it was contemporary to the chapel itself. But closer inspection revealed subtleties that gave the game away,such as the wooden table the statue is standing on.


This is a piece by Anthony Caro.


Another work by Alan Jones his life-size sculpture Carefree Man stands in front of Chinese Ladders by Felicity Aylieff . The form and design of this pot is inspired by the structure of bamboo scaffolding used by builders in China.


Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-1979

Uncommon Ground is a touring exhibition of works drawn from the Arts Council Collection. It’s showing at the Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture until the middle of June, so we took the opportunity to visit while we were over at the YSP the other Saturday.

The YSP’s website tells us

In the late 1960s artists on both sides of the Atlantic turned away from the enclosed space of the gallery and went out into the landscape to forge a new form of art. This art was made in radically new ways often using earth, water, sun and even fire as raw materials, and went under several names: land art, earth art, process art, and conceptual art. Drawing largely from the Arts Council Collection and supplemented by important loans from artists and major public institutions,Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966 – 1979 takes a fresh look at the art of this period and considers what was particular about the way land art developed in Britain.

The exhibition featured works that reflected the main aspects of the movement – moulding the landscape itself, using materials taken from the environment, creating a temporary impression and even walking.

We’ve seen numerous works by Richard Long, Anthony Gormley, David Nash and Andy Goldsworthy over the past few years and have become “fans” so it was interesting to see the early examples featured in this exhibition. And, as is often the case, there were works by artists who I’d never heard of previously and so I was able to make some new discoveries.

The works were very well displayed in the Gallery. The long view of the parkland through the windows which extend all along one side of the building really complemented them and provided an appropriate context – almost like an exhibit itself.

No photographs were allowed in the gallery, so the following pictures of some of my favourite works on display have been sourced via th’Internet.

This is Fallen Tree (1979) an early work by Anthony Gormley, best known for his figurative sculptures based on his own body.

The work was created by taking slices from a tree trunk and then arranging them in a spiral starting at the centre with the smallest piece and then working outwards, increasing in size.

It reminded me very much of the work of Richard Long, one of whose works, Stone Circle (1972) consisted of stones laid out in a circle

Stone Circle

Richard Long made his mark (literally) with A Line Made by Walking (1967) he walked back and forth along a straight line in the grass, leaving a track that he then photographed in black and white.

Richard Long, ‘A Line Made by Walking’ 1967

The idea of creating art by walking, where the act of walking itself can become a work of art but where the artist leaves a mark on the landscape in some way, some more ephemeral than others, was, and remains, a trend in Land Art. A number of examples, including A Line Made by Walking, which we had seen before, were featured in the exhibition. The act is usually recorded in some way, usually by photographs, but sometimes by leaving a mark on the landscape – sometimes temporary (although often photographed to record for posterity) or more permanent, like the piles left by Richard Long on another of his journeys that was featured in the exhibition.

Another aspect of Land Art is the use of materials taken from the environment. This is typified by David Nash, the master of using wood harvested from “wood quarries”. There were examples of his work on display, including Silver Birch Tripod, 1975.

and Ash Dome a ring of 22 growing ash trees into near Nash’s home in North Wales, bent to form a living dome.

An early work by Tony Cragg, New Stones – Newton’s Tones (1978), took materials from the environment too, but in this case they’re pieces of plastic waste recovered from the Rhine and displayed in the order of the colours of the rainbow.

Andy Goldworthy also uses materials from the landscrpe, in many cases for on-site installations that use  only the materials available on site such as rocks, leaves, branches, snow and ice. These works are often ephemeral, eroding, decaying, crumbling or melting and the only evidence for their existence are the photographs that he takes. There were several examples in the exhibition including Snowball 1979

There were several more permanent works by Roger Ackling, who used sunlight to burn patterns into wood or paper, creating primitive photographic prints. One example was  ‘Night and Day’ (1 hour), 1977.

There were films too. Sometimes constituting the work itself, like Dereck Jarman’s A Journey to Avebury 1979, or a record of an event, like the Anthony McCall’s  Landscape for Fire II, 1972.

Photographs featured quite heavily in the exhibition – sometimes to record ephemeral works, as a record of an event or to show dramatic landscapes (I found the selection of photographs Sea Horizons by Garry Fabian Miller of the Bristol Channel under different conditions particularly affecting – pity about the reflective glass that made it difficult to view them properly). But they were used in other ways too. An example of the latter was John Hilliard’s Across the Park 1972. This is a series of pictures where a single shot is cropped in different ways providing very different interpretations of the same scene. Very clever, I thought and demonstrating how images can be manipulated and how “truth” depends on editing and perspective.

The exhibition provided a good opportunity to explore the origins of Land Art. It was particularly interesting to be able to see early works by artists we like, to see their early ideas and the beginnings of trends that they developed further during their career or, in some cases, abandoned to take other directions.

David Nash at Kew Gardens Revisited

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Last September we travelled down to London to see the exhibition of works by the sculptor, David Nash, at Kew Gardens. We really enjoyed the exhibition, but while we were there we discovered that it was going to be reorganised during September / October to include works that had been created on site at Kew in a “wood quarry”. We were keen to both see the new works and have another look at the exhibition in a Winter setting, so we arranged another trip down to London at the end of the second week in January. We knew we were taking a risk – the weather could have been miserable, or worse, but we were lucky. Although the day started off grey and gloomy, the cloud cleared during the course of the morning resulting in a cold, but bright Winter’s day with blue skies and sunshine.

During the Winter the park closes quite early, at 4:15 in the afternoon, so to make sure that we could see everything we wanted to, we arrived early and were the first through the gates when they opened at 9:30.

The main changes were that the Wood Quarry had been wound up, leaving behind two major sculptures in situ, with other works on display in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art and the Nash Conservatory.

During our visit in September, work at the Wood Quary was almost completed, but we were still able to see some works in progress. These included the two works that remain on the site



and Cambium Column.


The latter has been carved from a dead tree that is still rooted into the ground. It looks like a series of large, unwieldy, cups precariously balanced on top of each other. But this is an illusion. It’s all one piece of wood.

Most of the works created in the Wood Quarry are displayed in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, replacing the older works that were previously being shown.


There were some larger works, including a cork spire, and Huddle Dome, made of pieces of oak branches, both of which can be seen in the above photograph, the Oval Rings


inspired by the shapes of plant cells, and a series of smaller sculptures inspired by fruits.

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I particularly likes some of the small pieces, including these


and these, which seem to be made of off-cuts of wood, charred with branding iron, and which, to me, resemble small versions of shields used by some African peoples.

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The Kew website has more information on the works displayed in the gallery here and a slideshow of pictures here.

There’s a major new work in the Nash Conservatory (this large glass greenhouse isn’t named after the artist) – Cork Spire.


This large, conical structure is similar to the Cork Dome which is displayed outside the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, but it’s much taller. The colours of the cork bark changed with the light as the sun poured through the windows of the building. We thought it looked like a bonfire and you can almost imagine that it’s on fire when the sun strikes those pieces where the red coloured inner surface of the bark is visible, looking somewhat like flames licking the wood. (Well, it does if you use a little imagination!)

There’s a YouTube video of the Spire being constructed.

We spent a full day exploring the exhibition, and must have covered a few miles walking around the park revisiting the sculptures in the Temperate House and displayed outdoors. Tiring, but well worth it.

David Nash at Kew Gardens

Last Friday, during a short break in London, we travelled over to Kew Gardens. We’d never been there before, but our main reason for the visit was not to look at the plants, but to see the major exhibition of works by the sculptor David Nash that’s taking place there at the moment. I’d first become interested in his work when we saw his exhibition a couple of years ago at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and we were keen to take another look.

Like the one at the YSP, the Kew exhibition features a large number of his works. Some of the same sculptures and pictures featured in both exhibitions, but at Kew there were a number of newer works we hadn’t seen before and he is also creating some new works on site in a “Wood Quarry”. So it was interesting to see how his work had evolved. At both sites sculptures were located outdoors in parkland with some shown indoors in well lit, modern galleries. But at Kew he was able to site a number of works at carefully selected locations amongst the plants in the Temperate House.


Probably the most significant of the new works we saw was the Cork Dome which was built on site especially for the exhibition. It’s also the first work he has made from cork oak, taking his inspiration from a visit to Portugal to see the cork harvest.


It’s made from different sized pieces of cork bark. Smaller ones at the edges increasing in size towards the centre to form the dome shape.

The colour and the texture of the cork bark is quite different from the wood he usually works with.


And at Kew he has had the opportunity to work on site in a “wood quarry”. On a number of occasions over the years, Nash has been able to work with trees that have fallen naturally or must be felled because of storm damage or because they have become diseased. He “quarries” the wood from these trees, working in situ, creating works inspired by the natural form of the pieces he cuts from the tree.  He’s documented this process, producing drawings, some of which were displayed in the indoor gallery


Visitors who have been fortunate enough to be present when he is on site have been able to watch Nash work, creating sculptures that will be shown as part of the exhibition later in the year. Unfortunately he wasn’t there during our visit, but we were still able to visit the quarry and could see the works in progress.


A major piece that he’s creating in the quarry is this “totem pole” which looks as if it’s comprised of a series of cup like objects stacked precariously on toop of each other


The wood quarry closes on 24 September, so if we had visited it a few days later then we wouldn’t have been able to see it. The exhibition is going to be reorganised during September / October and will then include sculptures created in the quarry. So it would be good to revisit Kew before the exhibition ends in April next year if we get the chance.

The YSP exhibition had featured a few sculptures that had been cast in iron and bronze. At Kew there were several new bronze castings on display. These had been created from charred wooden sculptures and had been painted black.  At first glance the bronzes are very easy to mistake for the originals. The texture and colour of the charred wood had been recreated so well (he clearly works with some very skilled foundries).


Black Butt, 2011


Torso, 2011

They are relatively recent works and creating castings is obviously something he has been interested in exploring. Wood is affected by the elements and will split, warp and deform due to weathering and intervention of animals and even humans. Nash is interested in change and has not been afraid to let this happen with his work, incorporating them into the creative process. We could see this with some of those works that had also been displayed at the YSP, particularly the Oculus block a massive piece of eucalyptus wood from California that had been displayed indoors during the earlier exhibition but had been sited outdoors at Kew. We could see many changes brought about by exposure to the elements


But castings are much more durable and less susceptible to change. So perhaps Nash, as he gets older, wants to preserve some of his work for posterity.

It was really interesting to see the works sited in the Temperate House amongst the plants. In some cases they were almost hidden amongst the vegetation. Walking through the glass house we had to keep our eyes peeled and were taken by surprise by a number of works that either blended in with the plants or were well camouflaged by them.

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It’s only the regular shapes of the sphere and pyramid that gives these away




Sculptures were also displayed indoors in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical At, together with drawings and prints.


The film of his Wooden Boulder project was being shown. In 1978 he carved a boulder like shape from a section of one of his tree quarries at his home and studio near Blaenau Ffestiniog and dumped it in the nearby river to try to transport it away from the site. However, he ended up releasing it “into the wild” and followed its progress  down the river to the sea near Portmadog, filming, drawing and photographing it over twenty odd years until it disappeared out to sea.

We spent a full day at the exhibition, and with the works spread across the park we were able to combine looking at some excellent art with a pleasant walk and some exercise.

David Nash at the YSP


Last year we made two visits to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield where, as well as looking at the large collection of works by Henry Moore and other permanent or semi-permanent exhibits in the grounds, we saw major exhibitions by Isamu Noguchi and Peter Randall-Page. This year, the YSP are staging a major exhibition of work by David Nash. We went over to have a look at it in August and enjoyed it, but there was so much to see that we decided we needed to go back to have another look, so made the journey back over the Pennines a couple of weeks ago when I had a week off work.


“Black ball”

There were works displayed in all four galleries and outside in the grounds. Several pieces have been created especially for the exhibition, including a permanent installation – the Oxley Bank “Black Steps”.

David Nash principally creates his works from wood, often taking his inspiration from the natural forms of the trees he selects or finds. One aspect of his work I found particularly interesting was his use of “tree quarries” – fallen trees he uses to create several different works.


“Red column”

Some of his works are very large in scale and must have been difficult to transport, move around and install in the galleries. This is particularly the case with “Oculus block” a massive piece of created from  eucalyptus wood from California. The picture below (taken from the gallery’s Flickr site) really doesn’t give a proper impression of its scale.

Oculus Block from the  YSPs Flickr site

From the gallery’s information on this piece:

“Oculus is Latin for eye but is used in this case to refer to a hole that runs down the centre of the piece. The wood cut from the sculpture is arranged against the walls, setting up a kind of rhythm between the centre and edges of the space.”

There’s a simplicity to his works – both in their form and the way he lets the colour of the wood stand for itself, although he does apply colour by staining some of his pieces. He also uses charring effectively. In most cases this is controlled so only the surface is charred, and the natural colour of the wood can be seen in places through cracks and splits.



“Trunk and Butt” – two charred pieces created on site at the Longside gallery.

Unlike many other sculpture exhibitions visitors are allowed to touch most of the works displayed in the indoor galleries – in fact the staff seem to encourage you to do so. (However you are not allowed to touch those works which are charred – too many people touching them would eventually cause damage). Nash is interested in change and is not afraid to let this happen with his work. Wood is affected by the elements and will split, warp and deform even without human intervention as it dries, seasons or absorbs moisture under damp conditions. The changes will be different depending on whether the pieces are displayed indoors or outdoors. The effects can be seen in many of the works on display and you can see how he has used these natural changes as part of the creative process.

Nash also creates living “planted works” where he plays with nature. Examples include the “Ash dome”, “Planted Larches” and “Bluebell ring” created in woodland near his studio. Of course, these can’t be transported across the country, but the final room in the Underground Gallery, the “Project Space”, contains exhibits – drawings, photographs and a video – relating to these works.

Some of the living works will have taken years to plan and realise and Nash must be extraordinarily patient. This was certainly the case with his “Wooden boulder” project. He carved a boulder like shape from a section of one of his tree quarries at his home and studio near Blaenau Ffestiniog and dumped it in the nearby river. He followed its progress  down the river to the sea near Portmadog, filming, drawing and photographing it over twenty odd years until it disappeared out to sea. There was a short video film about the project shown in the , together with some related drawings and other pieces from the same “tree quarry” in the Bothy Gallery.

Not all the works displayed are made from wood – there are a small number of metal pieces – one of them, “King and Queen” displayed near the entrance to the park, a bronze  casting of a pair of wooden sculptures shown in the Underground gallery.


Bronze castings of “King and Queen”

In addition to the sculptures, there were a number of pictures displayed in the exhibition. Again these are quite simple, with only a few strong colours. I also liked his “family trees” , displayed in the Longsight gallery, which illustrated the development and evolution of his work and the connections between the different pieces.

A short documentary film about David Nash’s work and the creation of the exhibition was showing in the main reception building. Unfortunately copies weren’t on sale, but some sections can be viewed online on the YSP’s Vimeo channel.


Online Gallery on the Guardian website

Pictures from the YSP Flickr site