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David Nash at Kew, King and Queen II, 2011, bronze

David Nash has an exhibition at Kew Gardens this summer with open air and indoor sculptures, drawings and films as well as an outdoor studio called the Wood Quarry.

‘David Nash at Kew: A Natural Gallery’ 9th June -14th April 2013 features the sculptor’s year long residency at the Royal Botanic Gardens. He has moved from his home in Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales with his family, to a cottage in the Botanic Gardens so that he can work on site in the Wood Quarry until September.

At Kew Nash has the opportunity to create a work in situ from an oak tree which had come to the end of its life. This is as he says ‘a vein of oak to be quarried’ and is the centrepiece of his Wood Quarry. “The life of the tree was formed in that place, the quality of its life echoes in it” and he is able to explore into the tree and a work will come out of it. This reminds me of Michelangelo finding the form concealed in a block of marble.

Preparatory drawing by David Nash

Preparatory drawing by David Nash

Oak in situ in Wood Quarry, beginning May

Oak in situ in Wood Quarry, end May

Homage to Brancusi?

Wood Quarry

Wood Quarry -Tolkien like branches ‘Dandy Scuttlers’

Other sculptures have been brought here and sited, often intriguingly fitting into their surroundings, echoing shapes of trees and settings.

Torso, bronze

King and Queen I, bronze

Cork Dome, 2012, cork oak

Detail of Cork Dome, 2012, cork oak

A beautiful piece of land art, created on site.

King and Queen II, bronze

A deliberate reminder of Henry Moore’s King and Queen in Galloway?

Two Sliced Cedars, 2010, charred cedar

Another more solid duo also rather Moore-like. The dense matte wood soaks up the light.

Detail of Charred Cross Egg, 2010, charred oak

Detail of Black Trunk, 2010, charred redwood

Details showing different wood qualities. Charring of the wood is a technique he often uses.

Black Butt, 2011, bronze

This piece is a permanent reminder of a piece of his work in Wales, a wooden boulder which gradually made its own way out to sea from his studio in Blaenau Ffestiniog, over a number of years from 1978 onwards and eventually disappeared from sight in 2003. The story is beautifully told in Roger Deakin‘s book Wildwood, which has a chapter on his encounters with David Nash. The boulder’s journey also features in the excellent BBC programme made during his recent exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The famous Ash Dome in Wales begun in 1977 is still evolving in the landscape. In this liking for integrating his work in and with the landscape he has a lot in common with Chris Drury, whose work I wrote about earlier in the year here.

It is interesting to compare these bronzes with the current Gagosian show of late bronzes by Henry Moore. Nash’s bronzes are hardly distinguishable from their wooden originals. Moore’s are large, polished and patinated, outdoor pieces brought inside, where they dominate and almost overpower the huge space of the gallery.  The original tiny maquettes and some of the found objects -flints and stones- which inspired them are also on show and illustrate a common origin in nature.

There are many more Nash sculptures on show both outdoors and in the glasshouses. I shall return to these later in the summer when the Wood Quarry pieces are finished. For now you can see them on the Kew web site.

Finally a reminder of earlier sculpture exhibitions at Kew to which this is a very worthwhile successor.

English: Henry Moore sculpture at Kew Gardens,...

English: Henry Moore sculpture at Kew Gardens, London, at an extensive exhibition of his work in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Glass art by Dale Chihuly at an exten...

English: Glass art by Dale Chihuly at an extensive exhibition in Kew Gardens, London, in 2005. The boat is in front of the Palm House, where there are two other glass sculptures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)