The Garden of Good and Evil at the YSP

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The latest main exhibition in the Underground Gallery at the YSP had opened on 14 October, the day before our visit last weekend. It’s devoted to the work of a Chilean artist, Alfredo Jaar – “a pioneering practitioner of socially critical art” (Claire Lilley in the Exhibition Guide).

It’s a very different type of exhibition to those normally shown at the YSP as the works on display are not sculpture in the usual meaning of the word, but “installations”, film and photography.

Describing himself as “an architect making art”, Jaar constructs spaces and intricate light systems to navigate the ambiguities of what is represented and misrepresented in photographic and other media. (Exhibition Guide)

Unlike most of the major YSP exhibitions, there is only one of his installations outside the Underground Gallery (Tony Cragg’s sculptures sited outdoors from the previous exhibition are still there and will remain in place until March). This is a new work which will become a permanent exhibit in the grounds once the exhibition is over – relocated elsewhere as they won’t leave it in it’s present location immediately in front of the gallery. This work – The Garden of Good and Evil  (the exhibition is named after it) – takes the form of a grove of  101 trees sited in tubs along the length of the Underground Gallery open-air concourse. Inside this mini forest there’s a number of steel cells, of different sizes,  which are meant to reference ‘black sites’, the secret detention facilities around the world operated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Visitors could wander through the trees discovering the individual cells – all different but all with a one-metre square base.

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The work was inspired by a poem, One Square Metre of Prison,  by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Without being aware of this the work is perhaps an interesting curiosity, but knowing the inspiration it certainly made me consider and think about how people are imprisoned for their beliefs and hidden away from public view by governments, terrorist organisations etc. And with clandestine prisons, in practice illegal or only of borderline legality, themselves hidden from view by governments so that they can be ignored by the citizens – out of sight, out of mind.

Inside the gallery there are three major installations and a small number of other works. No photographs allowed, but the nature of most of the works meant that this was not that appropriate.

The first of the major works is The Sound of Silence (2005). Visitors enter a steel cube and sitting in the dark watch a video work telling the story of a South African photographer, Kevin Carter, leading to his image of a young victim of the 1993 Sudanese famine. The photographer stood and observed a young starving child being watched by a vulture, waiting for the appropriate moment to snap his photograph. A shocking image resulted which drew global attention to the famine, leading to aid being sent to help the victim. But the image raised serious questions about the role of the photographer and raises serious ethical questions. He did nothing to help the individual but, on the other hand, the picture may have contributed to aid saving the lives of others. The suffering of one saving the lives of many others?  This clearly troubled Carter himself and he later committed suicide.

The second of the major works, A Hundred Times Nguyen (1994), has 100 images of a little girl the artist met while visiting ‘refugee detention centres’ for Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong in 1991. Jaar who photographed her five times at five-second intervals. He took four of the images altering the order in which they are shown using all possible combinations to make 100 pictures which are displayed on the walls of the gallery.  In this work the artist addresses “compassion fatigue” and

articulates the importance of the individual through many of his installations, rather than focusing on the mass of victims of the devastation and oppression he has witnessed. (Exhibition website)

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The third major work Shadows (2014) uses images taken by photographer Koen Wessing over a single day, early in the 1978 Nicaraguan Civil War, following a farmer’s murder. Entering a darkened room six of the images are displayed on the wall. Visitors then move through to a second darkened space where the seventh image is projected onto the entire back wall of the room, which shows two women grieving after the death of their father, shot by Somosa’s National Guardsman and left by the side of the road. The image alters as it is observed, the two grieving daughters being isolated from the picture and then altered and turned into a bright white silhouette.  The room then goes completely dark and the image is retained on the retina, gradually fading away after several seconds.

I’m not sure what the artist’s intention was, but I felt that it is easy to put aside the shocking images of suffering but here it wasn’t quite so easy to forget and perhaps that’s what we all need to do.

Although I’m sure many visitors will grumble about the “unorthodox” nature of the exhibition – not “proper art” will no doubt be heard – this is the second video based exhibition we’ve seen in the underground Gallery. The other being the Bill Viola exhibition we saw at the beginning of last year. That was intended to be “a sensory experience with space to pause and make time to reflect and enable an emotional or even transformational experience”. However the current exhibition is quite a different experience. Unsettling and thought provoking in a different way and making political points about cruelty and suffering and the role of the artist.

 

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A warm October day at the YSP

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Sunday was forecast to be an unseasonably warm day in advance of the remains of Hurricanee Ophelia hitting us on Monday. We decided to make the most of it. I’d considered driving up to the Lakes but the forecast for there wasn’t so good so we decided to head over the M62 to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where a new exhibition – Alfredo Jaar: The Garden of Good and Evil – had just opened in the Underground Gallery. Driving home late afternoon we learned that there had been an accident on the M6 near Kendal leading to both sides of the motorway being shut for several hours. Turned out to be a good decision then.

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It was a good decision in other ways too as it was a beautiful sunny day for a walk around the grounds where we saw some new works on display, plus we caught one exhibition that had just opened in the Underground Gallery and one that was due to close in a few days in the Longside Gallery. Both were very good. More about them in future posts.

Here’s a few photos of some of the new works in the grounds.

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This stunning work, standing seven metres high on the south shore of the Lower Lake is Wilsis  by Jaume Plensa. It’s one of his series of portrait heads depicting young girls from around the world, with their eyes closed in a dreamlike state of contemplation. (Like Dream on the former Sutton Manor Colliery site in St Helens – which we’ve still never got round to visiting – although we’ve seen it many times from the motorway on the way to Liverpool)

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Wilsis is a fascinating exploration of perspective through the flattening of form, an idea that grew out of Plensa’s desire to understand what happens on the other side, on the reverse of things with which we are familiar, such as letters printed on a page, or a portrait head on a coin. From the front the head appears realistic, yet from the side it is an extremely flattened relief.

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Further along the lake we came across Bruce Beasley’s Advocate IV

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The sculpture is a collection of cubes stacked in a way so they look like a precariously balanced tower.

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We walked up to the Longside Gallery to see the exhibition  Occasional Geometries, curated by Bangladeshi-born artist Rana Begum with works selected largely from the Arts Council Collection. After we’d looked round we set off back down towards the Lower lake via the east side of the park, passing some favourite works by Andy Goldsworthy.

Walking along the north shore of the lake we spotted this sculpture by the Swedish sculptor Jørgen Haugen Sørensen  (well, he had to be Swedish with a name like that!).

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Then further on we passed Diario by Mikayel Ohanjanyan.

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A series of marble blocks bound by steel cables lying on a table.

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Looking closely we could see writing carved inside the fissures in the blocks –  listing the names of all the people the artist has ever met.

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Close by was Six Mourners and the One Alone  by Amar Kanwar.

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Made from timber from the 19th century Chapel organ that was dismantled due to irreparable damage. The seven pipes represent the six mourners, who count the
dead and the one alone, who gathers and memorises testimonies of the living.

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Anthony Gormley’s One and Other isn’t a new work, but it looked particularly good silhouetted against the blue sky

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Black and Blue: The Invisible Men and the Masque of Blackness was attracting a lot of attention. An army of identical two-metre-tall figures by the British-Trinidadian artist Zak Ové

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The figures are based on a small dark wood sculpture given to him as a child by his father,  the filmmaker Horace Ové, in the 1970s.

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Passing a new work by Julian Opie: People 15

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we came across Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (2010) – 12 bronze animal heads representing the Chinese Zodiac

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Ai reinterpreted the 12 bronze heads representing the traditional Chinese zodiac that once adorned the famed fountain-clock of the Yuanming Yuan, the imperial summer palace retreat in Beijing. Ransacked in 1860 during the Second Opium War by the British and French, only seven of the original heads have been returned to China – the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey, and boar. The locations of the other five – dragon, snake, goat, rooster, and dog – are still unknown.

Cast in bronze and standing three-metres-high, the sculptures each weigh 363kg. Through the re-interpretation of the heads on a larger scale, Ai comments and encourages debate on the politics of ownership, cultural history, repatriation and authenticity. The artist also wanted the work to be playful and accessible to the general public.

Matthew Day Jackson’s Magnificent Desolation, created by , directly references one of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures Les Burghers de Calais.

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According to history, King Edward III offered to spare the town if they sacrificed six of its most powerful leaders. Rodin chose to capture the heroic expressions of the six volunteers who were to be executed to save their people. Day Jackson has taken these figures of heroic self-sacrifice and, through using a computer generated 3D model of a map, has placed them on a moonscape as subtitute astronauts. Named after Buzz Aldren’s autobiography and first-hand account of landing on the moon, Magnificent Desolation is cast in bronze, a material often used for memorials, and combines the fated heroism of both Les Burghers de Calais and the risks of space travel.

A new Henry Moore (new to YSP, that is) – Reclining Connected Forms

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Finally, I don’t recall seeing this work by Willaim Turnbull before

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inspired by his knowledge of ancient cultures and their artefacts; revealing the sculptural potential of utilitarian and functional objects.

This was only a fraction of the art works we saw during our visit. It’s always worth a visit to the YSP, a chance to look at first class art while taking a walk through a pleasant country park. Especially pleasurable on a war, sunny, autumn day.

Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art

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After looking round the exhibition in the old Chapel, we walked across the Country Park, down rast the lower lake and up the hill to the Longside Gallery where there was yet another new exhibition to see! Kaleidoscope: Colour and Sequence in 1960s British Art is a survey of

painting and sculpture from the Arts Council Collection, and augmented with major loans from important UK collections…. (which) …… examines the art of the 1960s through a fresh and surprising lens, one bringing into direct view the relationship between colour and form, rationality and irrationality, order and waywardness.

There’s a good selection of works by 20 British artists including  Anthony Caro, Bridget Riley and William Turnbull. I was familiar with some of them but there were some discoveries (always good!).

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The works on display included examples of Op Art, Pop Art and Constructivism, and

the sequential placement of brightly-coloured abstract units found in New Generation sculpture.

The Longside gallery is another good, airy exhibition space with large windows facing north letting in plenty of light.

Here are a selection of the works I liked

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Blue Ring (1966) by David Annesley

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Slow Movement (1965) by Anthony Caro

 

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Thebes (1966) by William Tucker

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Double Red (1966) by William Turnbull

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Quinquereme (1966) by Tim Scott

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Movement in Squares (1961) by Bridget Riley

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Ilmater (1966-7) by Jeffery Steele

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Holywood Pix (1967) by Anthony Donaldson

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Pelagic II (1967) by Bernard Farmer

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15.5.64 (1964) by John Hoyland

One of my favourites was Suspense (1966) by Peter Sedgely. This was one of a small number of works from the exhibition where photography wasn’t allowed. Another example of Op Art (like the paintings by Bridget Riley and Jeffery Steele, it was painted in such a way that it seemed that the image was out of focus – very clever!

Another good exhibition – worth the walk up the hill!!

[Re]construct at the YSP

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There’s always plenty to see at the YSP so after our first look around the Tony Cragg exhibition we had something to eat and then walked over to the former chapel which has been converted into an excellent exhibition space to see the [Re]construction exhibition which had only opened a few days before.

Selected largely from the Arts Council Collection by YSP, as part of the National Partners Programme, the exhibition questions what we know and understand about architecture, and features work by artists including Martin Creed, Anya Gallaccio and Cornelia Parker.

Walking through the entrance the first thing we saw was what appeared to be a brick wall with a large section of bricks that had melted.

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This was Alex Chinneck’s A hole in a bag of nerves (2017) which was constructed especially for the exhibition. The bricks are made of wax and a section has been melted with a hot air heater.

The centre of the main space was dominated by Cornelia Parker’s Neither From Nor Towards.

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This work comprises weathered bricks from a row of houses destroyed when they slipped into the sea on the south-east coast following the erosion of the cliffs. The bricks are suspended in space, recreating their fall. Like the exploding house we saw at the Whtworth a couple of years ago it was an impressive work.

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This work, can love remember the question and the answer, is by Anya Gallaccio

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Those are real flowers trapped between the glass panes in the mahogany door. The flowers will rot and decay, so the work will change subtly over the course of the exhibition.

There were a number of video works included in the exhibition. I found two of them, Rooms designed for a woman by Emily Speed and Device by John Wood and Paul Harrison – the “ art-world equivalent of Laurel and Hardy” according to the Tate website  showing in the Chapel’s gallery, particularly interesting.

Tony Cragg at the YSP

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The latest main exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a major retrospective of the work of Tony Cragg – a British sculptor who lives and works in Germany. It includes 14 large sculptures (made within the last 10 years) displayed in the grounds, 35 indoors in the Underground and Garden Galleries and 80 works on paper.

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We drove over earlier this week, braving the long term roadworks on the M60, to take a look and were well impressed!

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Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool and initially worked as a lab technician for the National Rubber Producers’ Research Association. He enrolled on the foundation course at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design in Cheltenham in 1969 when he was 20 and then went on to study at Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He won the Turner Prize in 1988 and represented Britain at the 42nd Venice Biennale in the same year.

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Initially he was associated with the Land Art movements, concentrating on site-specific installations of found objects and discarded materials. This early part of his career wasn’t particularly covered in the exhibition other than a small selection of works and photographs  in the Project Space in the Underground Gallery, including this one

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New Figuration (1985) – made from plastic objects washed up along the Rhine.

This is another relatively early work, in this case made using heavy-duty metal industrial components

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Minster (1992)

The majority of the larger sculptures on display, however are from his later Early Forms and Rational Beings series.

Cragg started creating his Early Forms in the late 1980s.  They’re based on various types of vessels, such as laboratory test tubes and flasks, jars and bottles which he has “morphed” to form abstract shapes and forms, but with an element of the form of the original object still present. They rather reminded me of plastic or rubber mouldings where the production process has gone wrong resulting in a deformed shape. I’ve seen similar mishaped mouldings when I’ve been visiting rubber and plastic production sites during my work.  No doubt Cragg saw similar things when he working in the rubber industry which gave him some inspiration for this series.

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The starting point for the works in Cragg’s Rational Beings series are profiles of the human face or, sometimes, body. But they’re overlaid and manipulated so that it’s initially difficult to make out the origin of the complex forms he creates from overlaid discs of wood or other materials, in some cases left as wooden sculptures, in other cases casting them in bronze or other metals.

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Look closely from the right angle and the profiles of human faces or figures can be seen

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Other works included examples from his Hedge series

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and a couple of sculptures from the more recent Skull series

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This sculpture has it’s surface entirely covered with dice

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and this one, the surface covered with letters, is reminiscent of the work of Jaume Plensa

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Manipulation (2008)

The Garden Gallery displays concentrated on smaller sculptures and works on paper

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including pictures of test tubes inspired by his time working as a lab technician.

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I particularly liked a couple of smaller sculptures made from glass

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This is a superb exhibition and will definitely benefit from a second visit. We’re already planning one for July!

A Cold, Grey Day at the YSP

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When we were over at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the new Year’s Bank Holiday Iwe splashed out and bought a print from Flights of Memory the exhibition of works by Angela Harding: Mid week, while I was working away in Ireland, I received a phone call telling me that it had come back from being framed and was ready for collection. So Sunday we decided to drive over to pick it up and have a walk round the Country Park. The Not Vital exhibition finished at the beginning of the month and there was nothing on at the Longside or Bothy Galleries either, but I fancied getting some fresh air and stretching my legs in pleasant countryside after a week stuck indoors working and travelling. And it’s always good to see the sculptures dotted around the park, even if they are quite familiar after our many visits over the past few years.

It was a cold, grey day but there was no wind or rain to speak of, so after parking up (on the overflow car park as, to our surprise, there were plenty of visitors) and having a bite to eat we set off for a walk down the hill towards the lakes at the bottom of the valley. We’d decided to circumnavigate them and then make our way through the park back up to the shop to collect the print.

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I like the decorative features on the bridge

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The view up the Lower Lake

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Walking along the south bank of the Lower Lake we passed some highland cattle

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Not so keen on those horns but she was placid enough.

This sculpture was relocated from the other side of the lake last year

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Woodland Spirit – Diana by Lucy and Jorge Orta

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We rather liked the new setting in the water.

We crossed the dam and carried on along the south shore of the Upper Lake, passing Red Slate Line by Richard Long

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At the end of the Upper Lake we passed this landlocked boathouse

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Inside was Eddy by JocJonJosch

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This obelisk stands the woods on the north shore,

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Tread Pad by James Capper at the bottom end of the Upper Lake by the Cascade Bridge.

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We continued along the path following the north shore of the Lower Lake

Looking past Promenade by Anthony Caro towards Bretton Hall

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A heron was perched on a branch in the Lower Lake

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Reaching the two works by David Nash towards the far end of the Upper Lake

49 Square

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and Black Mound

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Cutting back across the field where a number of sculptures by local lad Henry Moore are displayed

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Cutting across the lower fieldrh

Shogun by Philip King

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However Incongruous, a three-dimensional rendition of Albrecht Dürer’s Rhinoceros woodcut by Raqs Media Collective.

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Almost back to the main building we passed a collection of Joan Miro sculptures

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Time for a flat white before collecting our print from the shop and heading off home.

Now we need to decide where we’re going to hang it!

A Winter’s Day at the YSP

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New Year’s Day being a Sunday, Monday was a Bank Holiday. We decided we’d drive back over the M62 to Wakefield, this time to combine art with some exercise at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. (and try out my new camera!)

We set off reasonably early, arriving about 11 o’clock as we wanted to make the most of the short hours of daylight. Parking up on the old car park we walked up towards the Underground Gallery and YSP centre, passing an old favourite, Barbara Hepworth’s Family of Man.

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The Ultimate Form

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It looked like the family had been given something of a makeover and in November it  had been d re-sited further along the Hillside, away from the now mature trees, in order to give an unobstructed view of the work and to protect the tree roots. The work had also been cordoned off, meaning it was not longer possible to get in amongst the individual pieces which could now only viewed from a (albeit short) distance.I hope this is only temporary while the newly laid turf beds in.

After some dinner, we set off for a walk down to Longside and back. A decent circuit taking in several notable art works on the way. It was a fine day. Cold, but sunny with a clear blue sky.

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We headed across to the old Georgian chapel.

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The current exhibition We Listen for the Future features four pieces of “sound art” by a South African artist, James Webb.

At one end of the chapel there was a large bank of speakers playing intermittent sounds made by fists banging on a door – Untitled (with the sound of its own making), 2016. It’s intended to

reference ancient law of religious sanctuary, as well as the current refugee crisis

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I rather liked another of the exhibits – All that is Unknown, 2016. This comprised a pair of speakers facing each other across the length of the room in the upstairs gallery, which played the sound of a heartbeat very faintly so it could only be heard by putting your ear very close to the speakers.

While we were inside the chapel strong sunlight shining through one of the windows created an interesting pattern of light and shadow on the facing wall.

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Leaving the chapel we set off down the hill, passing this work by Henry Moore

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and further down the hill, Shadow Stone Fold by Andy Goldsworthy was occupied by a flock of sheep.

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We crossed the bridge over the river at the bottom of the lake. Looking back we could see two works by David Nash49 Square (49 Himalayan birch trees, which, planted in seven rows of seven), and a collection of charred wood stumps, Black Mound.

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We started to climb the hill towards Oxley Bank, via another work by David Nash,

Seventy-one Steps climbs from the lake up to the top of the bank, connecting the two sides of the valley and the four galleries. Seventy one huge oak steps, carefully charred and oiled, follow the lie of the land on the hill. The steps are completed by 30 tonnes of coal embedded between the steps to create a stunning installation that will erode and change over time.

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These tree roots aren’t actually real

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they’re another work of art. Speed Breakers by Hemali Bhuta are the roots of a fallen beech tree, cast in bronze and installed on the path up on Oxley Bank

Then another work by Andy Goldsworthy – Hanging Trees, three enclosures built into one of the estate’s historic ha-has

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with sections of trees incorporated into the walls

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Further down towards Longside, in the woods, another Goldsworthy – Outclosure. A round stone enclosure, the walls too high to peer inside.

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Approaching Longside, looking back across the valley towards Bretton Hall.

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We passed a field of rare breed sheep

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The Longside Gallery is currently closed so we set off across the fields back towards the main part of the Estate.

Reaching the Lake, a closer view of the old Hall

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The two lakes were both partly frozen

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We passed Anthony Gormley’s One & Other

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Setting back up the hill we passed several works including  Ten Seated Figures. by The Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz

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The bright sunshine really brought out the rusty red colour on the  rough surface of the bronze sculptures

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Crawking one of Sophie Ryder’s giant hare/human hybrids

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And then back up towards the Underground Gallery passing Barbara Hepworth’s Square With Two Circles

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This was the last day of the Not Vital exhibition we’d seen earlier in 2016. That had been a dull day, but  Monday’s bright sunshine brought out the best of  the stainless steel sculptures displayed outdoors

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We took the opportunity to have a final look around the works displayed in the Underground Gallery

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We also saw some of the paintings by Kate Daudy on various walls around the Park for her work This is Water. The images are scattered around the park and it would have been interesting to seek them out, but unfortunately with limited hours of daylight time didn’t permit.

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After a strong shot of caffeine via a “flat white” we took a final stroll along the Lower Lake

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getting a closer look at David Nash’s Black Mound

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and 49 Square

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Reaching the end of the lake

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we set up back up the hill towards the YSP Centre. It was only 4 o’clock but the sun was beginning to set behind this work by Henry Moore.

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A final look at the Not Vital sculptures in the garden by the Underground Gallery

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and it was time to go back to the car, change out of our boots and set off back home after another good day at the YSP.