This is the fourth in the series of occasional, major exhibitions held in Lewes, and organised by Sculpture Exhibitions Limited. The exhibition features major works that David Nash has reserved for his own collection, and which chart his development as a sculptor. Sculptures, carved in wood, constructed, and sometimes charred, the selection demonstrates the plethora of ways in which Nash works with trees. Showing contemporary sculptures within the Regency Assembly Room of Lewes Town Hall we believe heightens their presence as expressive, energetic and current statements as they stand in dramatic contrast with the historic formality and decorative detailing in the architecture.
Through the exhibition, we aim to evoke some of the atmosphere of Nash's former studio, Capel Rhiw, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales, in which the pieces are normally shown.
The Tree is central to David Nash's art. He uses trees that have been felled for good reason and examines and selects them as the stone carver may choose blocks from different parts of a quarry. Nash also plants and trains trees, pruning and bending them to grow to preordained forms – the best known example being the Ash Dome, planted in 1977 for the millennium, and which will be celebrated for its thirtieth anniversary at the time of this exhibition.
Sculptures for the exhibition have been selected to centre on the nature and spirit of Trees. The wood is drawn from a range of species: elm, oak, American redwood, chestnut, palm, and lime, amongst others; and is cut from different parts of the tree, carved in many different ways. The forms are outreaching, condensed, simple, complex, geometric, organic, vegetable, mineral, rising, falling, rough, smooth, pale, dark, open, closed, horizontal, vertical – the nature of a particular piece of wood contributes to the form Nash decides a sculpture should take.
The exhibition will feature sculptures made over the period 1976-2007, beginning with Tripod 1976 which shows how cut branches can be made to stand firmly when attached by a traditional 'pegging' method. The wood is chestnut, and is cut along the length of the branch, in the manner of rails in post and rail fencing, as seen in many locations throughout the southeast region. Tables, columns, boxes, vessels, a ladder, stair, comet, egg, bowl, throne and cube are made in a range of wood, some of which is charred to velvet blackness, turning the surface from vegetable (wood) to mineral (charcoal). Here is chemistry, geometry, alchemy, anthropology, cultural history, time, myth and legend to be explored. Nash will be making a new, monumental sculpture especially for the exhibition, adding to a number of works in the exhibition that have not been shown before in the southeast.