Monday, 11 June 2012

Kew Gardens: David Nash Sculpture

*** update 21/11/12

The weather had not been good - but it was changeable - to have an interesting walk around Kew Gardens, so I took a camera just in case I went.  I had not planned anything and asked at the information desk if there were any tours.  I was told that the winter schedule has guided tours and there was one in about 40 minutes which would be about David Nash.  I was in luck and after a walk around the Palm House and lake area taking a few photos, I returned and met Peta Matthews, who took me round. 

Photograph of 2 trees: On the left is a pine,
The Professor cannot remember what the tree on the right is!
Can anyone identify it?  
The weather was turning quite bad about 1.45 and after managing a few shots of trees, we visited the bronze sculptures outside then headed for the Temperate House as a downpour was underway.  The wind had also got up so I borrowed an umbrella and had a few Mary Poppins moments with brolly and cane combo. 
 By the Throne
David Nash RA
Kew Gardens
21 November 2012
(The Throne is about 3 times the height of the Professor, is shaped like a chair and is made of pale beech)
I had really enjoyed my previous visit with Lorraine and catching the remaining leaves with the sculpture inside the Temperate House was a real bonus.  The David Nash sculptures started me off on a trail of discovery in this genre and my visits to the other exhibitions have been enriched by this Kew Gardens show. 
In my walking lists in Scotland, I mentioned that I enjoy the outdoors in bad weather as the sounds can be interesting.  We had falling leaves, rain pouring down on the roof of the Temperate House and the odd plane too!  The colours were a rich brown in some cases and I was able to match some of the sculptures I had visited before.

By the Mizunara Bowl
David Nash RA
Kew Gardens
21 November 2012
(This is made from Mizunara, a Japanese oak.  The sculpture is drying out and has been been sculpted from one piece.)

In the visitor centre I had a coffee and walnut cake and then bought the David Nash RA book on Kew titled David Nash at Kew Gardens (ISBN 978-1-84246-462-5). 

Many thanks to Peta for a really enjoyable tour and this followed on from my joining a group initially with Lorraine.  The desk, cafe and shop people were all really helpful.

By the Crack and Warp
David Nash RA
Kew Gardens
21 November 2012
(Lots of horizontal lines, made form lime wood which has dried, allowing cracks and warping.)

*** end of update

Kew Gardens is a popular spot for many visually impaired visitors. In addition to free admission there are several organised events and extra facilities for some disabled people.  However, even if you just turn up, it is possible to enjoy many of the attractions.

My local Visually Impaired group has arranged boat trips to Kew in addition to  coach trips.  Many take a packed lunch and their own vacuum flask as the food can be expensive for those on a limited budget.  Others would also rather sit out and enjoy the relative calm of Kew, apart from the aircraft noise.  Many have a particular favourite time of the year to visit depending on what is in season. 

Last summer when I went to Kew Gardens I went on the Explorer.  This resembles a train and it was very good at giving an overview of some of the unusual trees, which I can pick up on my peripheral vision.  Greens are a bit of a mystery to me (see my posts on green pigments in art) and if it is overcast the gardens can be a bit monochromatic.  Last year my visit coincided with a rehearsal for a Jools Holland gig with blue skies. 

On Saturday, 9th June 2012,  I was heading in the direction of Richmond and as the weather had brightened decided to alight at Kew Gardens Station from the London Overground.  The platform staff approached me offering help and I was taken down the stairs and through a subway emerging on the Stratford bound platform for the return.  I was taken out of the station and given clear instructions: cross station parade of shops on right and cross zebra crossing, proceed until main road and light controlled crossing (beeps) to the main gate.  Thanks to staff at 1.40 pm at Kew Gardens Station!

Once in the gardens, I asked one of the stewards about the Explorer (it was 1.55) and they run every 30 minutes on the half hour. The steward also said there was a tour at 2pm and gave directions to the information desk.  

Kew has a significant amount of volunteers and on asking about tours I was introduced to Lorraine who was leading a tour of the David Nash sculptures in the gardens, Shirley Sherwood Gallery and the Temperate House. I mentioned to Lorraine about my vision as she had had experience with visually impairment through a friend who has tunnel vision as well as having contact with Canadian NIB.  Lorraine asked me if she could mention this to the rest of the group. I think this is a good idea as large groups soon get used to there being a visually impaired visitor among them and this also helps in inclusion.

In our group there were visitors from Italy and Japan.  Nash has exhibited in Japan where his work is popular.  The pieces are unique and sell for tens of thousands of pounds, though charcoal drawings and prints can be bought.

Nash works with fallen trees, diseased and dead trees and wood bought-in (Portuguese Cork).  Among the woods used include:  cedar, oak, lime, palm, yew, elm, birch and beech. 

© Jim Linwood

Nash established a workshop in North Wales in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which had been a slate mining and quarrying industry based town.  In combination with the Welsh mountain weather, the pieces tend to be monochromatic. Nash chars wood on the outside giving a black “patina” and has started to make bronze castings from some of his work.  His wooden work has been exposed to the elements and to fungal attack like Honey fungus (beloved of Pippa Greenwood on Gardeners Question Time).  He has also taken back some of his work and reworked it with a charring effect using a blow lamp.  I am getting ideas!  The tools which Nash uses are chain saw and axe, so these are not displays of finely crafted carpentry.

The first pair of monoliths of wood, 2 Cedars had hacked wedges made and some carving of the overall shape. This was charred and I touched it and no charcoal comes off. 

2 cedars
© Jim Linwood

We went into the Sherwood Gallery where there are examples of more intricate work, two canoes which can interlock and which one of the visitors thought resembled Viking long ships.  There is part of a palm tree which can also be touched and one of the group asked questions about touching the objects.  This is an awkward question. (Check Gerhard Richter Kugel story at Tate Modern)

Some of Nash’s drawings reminded me of Hockney designs for the Thixendale trees in winter.  In fact, I could make out quite a lot of the cuts Nash had made in some carvings in the Temperate House. Nash also uses pyramids, spheres and cubes a lot and as well as oval/egg shapes and crosses as some kind of symbology. 

The tour finished at the Wood Quarry where Nash is creating work during his period at Kew.  This will be shown in October. 

Quarry at Kew
© Jim Linwood

Lorraine then walked me back to the café.  We chatted about Kusama as she had been to that show.  I mentioned the Boetti exhibition which is much more craft based and that I had liked Boetti’s sculptures in any material.  The Italians had been pleasantly surprised that we had a Boetti show in London. 

Lorraine was a real “find” and knew instinctively how to ask visually impaired visitors how they perceive objects and how they navigate. (I am now getting quite cross when I get asked  by professionals “What percentage vision do you have?” and “How much useful vision do you have?”) Lorraine helped me in the café where I had a delicious pear and chocolate tart and a coffee. 

Black butt
© Jim Linwood

Afterwards I went to the shop and asked about postcards as I did not want to buy a book.  A very helpful staff member was familiar with Nash and took me outside where the Nash merchandise is on sale and helped me select one.  (Thanks H Matsusaka, from till receipt!)

The tour lasted 2 hours and not having a camera, yet, there are no photos of mine.  The photos I have selected have been attributed to the source.  This was a fascinating tour and many thanks to Lorraine and the people on duty about 2pm for directing me.