For over 40 years, David Nash has been creating sculpture from wood at Capel Rhiw, an abandoned Methodist chapel in Wales that has become his home, studio, and gallery. Using his ever-increasing knowledge of trees and deep connection to the landscape, his works emerge from what he sees as “borrowed” pieces of wood, often enormous pieces of material carved into dynamic shapes that speak to the inherent beauty of the wood and its properties. His sculptures are alive with the imperfections and innate roughness of nature, their cracks and warps dictated by their environment rather than the artist’s hand.
Nash began his work with timber by building towers out of beams scavenged from demolition sites. He quickly realized though, that there was vast potential to be found in the downed or dying trees that dotted the countryside around him. A life-long arborist, he started to shape this new material using only basic tools such as axes, handsaws, and chisels, getting an intimate feel for the vagaries of the wood and the opportunities they presented. Later, he progressed to using chainsaws and blowtorches, now his preferred methods, which allowed for the creation of towering monumental works as well as charred forms with sumptuous black surfaces.
He sees his sculptures in two ways: those that are “coming” and those that are “going”. His “going” works are pieces that are intended to one day become reabsorbed by nature through the process of decay, quietly receding back into their landscape to nourish the earth. “Coming” works describe living installations that will continue to grow and evolve, such as in his singular work Ash Dome, a collection of ash trees gently guided over decades to form a domed structure. It is this ongoing narrative between man and nature, coerced by time and space, that continues to fuel Nash, encouraging the artist to mold this most primitive of materials into works that exude wit and tangible, dramatic beauty.
Today he has become one of Britain’s most prolific sculptors. His works are held in the Uffizi Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield among many others. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1999 and in 2004 received an OBE for services to the arts alongside other recognitions such as the Charles Wollaston Award and the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture.
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