Large and small-scale sculptures in wood, charred wood, bronze and iron in addition to pigment works on paper, explore the breadth of Nash’s established practice with a focus on his three primary materials: wood, metal and pigment.
Nash has developed his sculpted work consistently over the last five decades, placing trees at the centre of his exploration. His intimate knowledge of their characteristics, both in life and in the process of change that continues after their being cut down, has informed his artistic development. Nash carefully chooses the way he treats the wood, allowing its natural qualities to inform the final shape of the work. Meanwhile, the effect of charring some of his wooden sculptures varies according to species: ‘charred beech, charred oak and charred tulip are not the same black; charred mahogany adds an evident colour to black’, says David Nash.
If Nash’s wooden sculptures are rooted in the life cycle of a tree, his interest in metal stems from its origins and its subsequent transformation through being heated and melted. Iron, for example, is formed by one of nature’s most elemental processes and is extracted through high temperatures. Nash’s metal works explore fundamental shapes such as the cross, or expertly mimic the surface of his charred wooden sculptures, which are then cast in bronze.
Drawing has always been an important element of Nash’s practice. Interested in the nature of pigment itself, he often allows it to dictate the form of the image (‘colour-form’). The raw pigment is applied directly to paper through an energetic process and halos of colour around the main shape are deliberately left on the paper. Elsewhere, Nash observes forms and colours in nature, such as the change in the colour of oak leaves in spring from orange through yellow to bright green.
Trees are made of earth, air and water; three primary elements which David Nash often complements with fire, by charring the surface of his wooden sculptures. As Nash states, earth represents material, air represents space, water represents movement and fire represents light. Nash allows the four primary elements to inform his entire practice, whether it be in the form of wood, metal or pigment on paper.