Press Story

Trees show their time-story through their form. At all stages trees and wood reveal their place and progress in this great cycle of coming and going, soaked in weather and time.

David Nash

David Nash has dedicated his artistic life to an evolving study of trees and wood, absorbing knowledge through haptic experience and close observation over decades. This new exhibition in The Weston Gallery is dedicated to the artist’s drawings inspired by trees, from the observational and documentary, through to intensely coloured, abstract works that capture the essence of their life force.

Nash’s long association with Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) began over forty years ago and Full Circle marks an affinity between artist and organisation. In the early 1980s, he wrote in a letter regarding his forthcoming YSP residency: “environment and ecology are a first consideration for me as an artist”. This prescient and enduring occupation not only with the intersection of nature and art, but our direct human relationship with the natural environment, makes Nash’s body of work ever more pertinent as we address the climate crisis. A critical aspect of his admiration for trees, and one we might learn much from, is that “trees take just enough and give back more”.

Drawing is as central and constant in Nash’s practice as the trees it grows from. It is a way of learning about and understanding his subject, of finding form for ideas, recording and responding to forms from life. Works in The Weston Gallery, a significant number of which have never been exhibited before, will be enlivened by the natural light that floods the space and will resonate with the far-reaching landscape views.

Spanning four decades, a broad range of drawings reflects different processes and types of mark making, from fine graphite to thick, smoky charcoal, and bold swathes of colour achieved by applying pure pigment with cloth. The dynamic Big Beech Going at Space (1978) conveys the pure energy of growth through minimal yet highly expressive lines. This directness, seen across the exhibition, is a result of the fact that the artist draws immediately and rapidly from life in the landscape, driven by the particular qualities of trees and their environments. Other works reflect at greater distance, made in the studio and concentrating on embodying the sensation of a principal characteristic such as colour, as so vibrantly demonstrated in Red Tree (2021).

Place is also reflected directly in the process of drawing: Ash Dome (2007) was created using earth taken from the surrounding ground, and Autumn Leaves in a River, November, Llan Ffestiniog (1983), made by drawing single leaves with ink and then repeatedly dipping the paper in river water to build up layers of different densities and reflect the durational nature of making.

In the Bothy Gallery a complementary display of films, archival photographs and works on paper will chart Nash’s remarkable relationship with YSP through his residencies and evolving works made for the landscape. In customary style, the artist will use diagrammatic drawing to demonstrate visually the aesthetic associations and familial links between pieces as well as the wider context of how his time at YSP fed into his wider career.

Full Circle also offers an opportunity to reconsider Nash’s site-specific works at YSP through a circular walk that links The Weston Gallery and Bothy Gallery, taking in sweeping views across the Park and lakes. Barnsley Lump and Three Stones for Three Trees were made during the artist’s first residency in 1981-82 and reflect the passing of four decades in their respective erosion and growth. Seventy-One Steps (2010), created for his major retrospective, has also been newly restored, re-charred and oiled to reanimate the black surface of the oak sleepers that snake up the valley side. Rarely have institution and artist held a creative partnership over such an extended period of time.

A publication will feature a conversation between the artist and YSP’s Founding Director, Peter Murray, who retires in 2022 – a perfect opportunity to reflect on a personal and professional relationship that has developed over 40 years, taking in numerous projects and exhibitions, and centred on the powerful connections between art and environment.

In YSP Centre, stencil prints by the artist will be available for sale, a number of which relate directly to his site-specific works at YSP. A range of bespoke merchandise, including a silk scarf, will be available to buy.