Let me tell you something. David Nash is sculptor in residence at Kew for a year. I went there yesterday and saw the sculptures.
So is this what happened?
A very, very old and magnificent oak died at Kew and at some point someone somewhere said, “Let’s give this very, very old, magnificent oak tree to a sculptor to make something commemorative with. Let’s then display this in the garden.” Someone else said, “Great idea, let’s have an artist in residence create something magnificent to honour this magnificent old oak and let’s let him use other bits of old wood around the garden for more commemorative sculpture.” Someone else probably said, “Yes, and let’s pay that sculptor loads of money.”
Do you know what happened with that very, very old and magnificent oak?
Now I’m the first person to admit that there are millions of things I don’t understand. And I really do try to always come to a piece of artistic expression, poetry, images, sculpture, with the attitude of, “OK, what do I understand?” and I take it from there.
I had a good look. Really I did. I saw rough-hewed huge chunks of wood, some of them burned black and I saw some of the wood chunks reproduced in bronze and painted black. Really and honestly
most some of them looked like a pile of dinosaurs droppings.
You know I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I was so successful as an artist that I could have my own show at Kew. I’ve spent a lot, a lot of time there and have seen the most glorious works; seen glass installations by Dale Chihuly, toured the Mary Ann North gallery over and over, seen the most intricately woven willow seed sculptures by Tom Hare…well, you get the picture. (I’m not just turning my nose up on one form of art without at least some knowledge.)
I even read the press releases and the reviews of this instillation. This kind of writing gets me every time:
“Nash’s philosophy places particular emphasis on the fundamental role that nature plays in humanity’s continued existence. He sees the environment as our ‘outer skin’; we are not separate from it or its master – everything that we do impacts upon it, for better or for worse. His work results in sculptures in which form and material have a deep mutual sympathy, and retain some of the essence of their original form.”
Looking at these David Nash-es I had to wonder “why?”, you know, what drives an artist to create like that? Is it the love of working with wood? The rough and hewn bits of it? The charred blackness of it? How is it artistic expression in his mind? Or is it all just so much self/mass-delusion and money signs?
Then I had to amend my equation: “Modern art = I could have done that + yes but you didn’t” to “yes but you didn’t have the connections or the OBE”.
Is there something I’m missing? Please, please explain.