No, it’s Not Vital to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on a perfect Autumn day, when the trees are at their burnished best, flaunting their chromatic colours just before the November squalls tug down their rusty leaves. It’s Not Vital at all. But it’s a brilliant way to spend a Sunday.
Once, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park was a stately home – the 18th century Bretton Hall – belonging to the Wentworth family. Just after the war it became a teacher training college specialising in the arts, until it was taken over by the University of Leeds. During those final years, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park was founded in the college parkland by Bretton Hall lecturer Peter Murray. When the college closed, Yorkshire Sculpture Park took over the estate grounds and lakes.
Some exhibits – particularly by those two sculptors who grew up so near to Bretton Hall, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, are semi permanent. But most artists shown there exhibit for a season or so, and you’ll find their works placed all over the extensive parkland: on the lawns, overlooking the lakes, waiting to be discovered on a woodland walk. Art appreciation combines with views across the distant Pennines, and a good healthy work-out across shady woods, formal lawns, lakes, pastureland and country bridle paths.
And I’ve been teasing you. Not Vital is the name of one of those sculptors exhibiting at the moment. It’s his work ‘Pelvis’ that greeted us as we came into the park.
He was raised in a remote part of the Swiss Alps, and developed a strong affinity with nature. Much of his life has been nomadic, and he engages with the artisans he meets on his travels to create works from local materials, pushing known technologies to the limits.
Here’s The Moon, a highly polished stainless steel sphere which reflects the environment it’s placed in. Those craters are based on photos of the moon, and individually produced by Beijing craftsmen.
And here’s Hanging and Weighting, an unsettling plaster and steel construction that surely, surely is about to slide to the floor?
I wish I’d taken more photos of his arresting and thought-provoking works – such as his self-portrait as a North Korean peasant, which is blank and faceless.
A taster of more on offer yesterday. Here’s KAWS‘ Small Lie, a dramatic and monumental wooden sculpture of Pinocchio.
Here’s Richard Long’s Red Slate Line, marching us inexorably forward – into the lake….
….. that’s if we haven’t tripped over Hemali Bhuta’s Speed Breakers – bronze tree roots conceived to be stumbled upon as we explore the woods.
Come and have a virtual tour of the park. And if you get the chance, visit the real thing.