David Nash has been in a constant dialogue with trees for more than 50 years, not only those of his home region of North Wales, but also the trees of Japan, California, Portugal, and more. As sculptor he does not see wood as a simple material to source from a forest before executing a pre-existing idea.
Rather, it is the trunk, the branches, the texture, even the roots, that inspire and suggest artistic possibilities which are then verified, invalidated, or transformed over the course of his work, chain saw or chisel in hand, without forgetting the use of fire. A nearly-finished sculpture may spend many months or years in hibernation before receiving its final resolution, such as being cast in another material such as bronze or aluminium which in turn permits the introduction of bright colours.
For this new exhibition, David Nash has taken to their limits a number of maple and beech pillars, walnut ovoids, a remarkable cubic commotion in burnt sycamore as well as a curious three-legged figure in aluminium and an impressive red column in bronze.
Drawing is central to his creative process and the exhibition reveals new red trees, his recent drawings of coloured constellations inspired by flowers in his garden, as well as stylised gorses. In addition, new editions of his stencils are presented at the bookshop of Galerie Lelong Paris.
Nash explores the different properties of wood and trees as artistic material from early tower constructions, burnt twig charcoal drawings and growing works, most famously Ash Dome, planted in 1977. Significantly, Nash began to use the unseasoned wood of whole tree trunks and limbs after rediscovering forgotten pieces of timber that had continued to change without his intervention.
Nash works only with wood from trees that have fallen naturally or been felled due to age, disease or safety. Frequent motifs include eggs, columns, crosses and pyramids; his work is dominated by both organic and geometric shapes. In large-scale installations cork oak bark is stacked to make towering spires and circles, oak branches are burnt and placed in the ground to form low, convex structures and circles.
He treats the wood with great respect, allowing the natural qualities of each species to inform the final shape of the work. He now also casts sculptures in bronze. His charred wood forms have deep black, velvety surfaces contrasting with the rich natural tones and grains of the particular type of wood itself and are mimicked masterfully if cast in bronze. Alongside his sculpture he has always made drawings and stencil editions.
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David Nash // The Many Voices of the Trees // Galerie Lelong & Co. // Paris, France // Exhibition on view through 30 April 2021
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