About Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson: Song for Coal

‘...an installation of enchanting intricacy and ambivalence’

- The Guardian Guide

YSP premiered Song for Coal, an immersive audio-visual work by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson in the historic St Bartholomew’s Chapel, to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of the UK miners’ strike.

The highly evocative kaleidoscopic work, installed in the beautiful and contemplative 18th-century chapel, explores the physical and cultural properties of coal through rich imagery and song. Song for Coal takes a form based on the flamboyant tracery of the apocalyptic rose window of Sainte Chapelle, Paris. Broken down into 152 separate panels, each section of the rose hosts individual films that trace coal from the carboniferous to the post industrial. 

The human voice is a central and powerful element in the composition of this work. Working with Opera North, Crowe and Rawlinson created a plainsong, based on The Coal Catechism (1898) by William Jasper Nicolls.

The artists worked with the collection of the National Coal Mining Museum and Drax Power Station, both within a few miles of YSP, in filming sections of the work. They also employed the rare practice of cannel coal carving to create objects and figurines which were later burned in front of the camera.

‘Song for Coal is beautiful, playful and enigmatic. Every time I see it I find something new that I hadn't even noticed the last time. ’

- Dominic Gray, Projects Director, Opera North

‘This new installation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park looks at our relationship to coal through the ages – with mesmerising, and perturbing, results’

- Creative Tourist

Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson work collaboratively between studios in Berlin and Manchester. Their work is primarily concerned with the languages of power, with its grammar and with its rhetoric. Their projects address questions around faith, politics, national identity and the environment. Recent projects include exhibitions at Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sunderland and VulpesVulpes, London, and a commission for The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester. The artists were selected for the Northern Art Prize in 2009.