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David Nash's Big Burn

David Nash's Big Burn

3rd May 2010







Last week two large lumps of wood were charred in front of the Longside Gallery at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The proximity of the fire to the gallery had raised some concern as wind speed and direction could have some serious consequences. But the park was ready. Scaffolding had been erected on both sides of the building to enable someone to get onto the roof should any burning material blow up there. 

The fire was set by using thin timber lengths as fuel. The length is important because they must reach the top of the sculpture to ensure an even charring accross the whole surface of the work.

You can see in this photograph that the timber length has been extended by adding a bit to the end of each one. 

The dry timber fuel when lit burnt furiously on the hill side. On seeing the flames in the distance a member of the public a couple of miles away from the event called the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. They were on site in no time at all and ready for any worse case scenario. But today it was just art that was on fire and nobody needed saving so they returned to base.

This huge sculpture revealed itself as the timber fuel burnt away to nothing.

After the Redwood it was the turn of the Elm. 

The fire moved around the large sphere and the sculpture, covered in a fine white ash, emerged dramatically from the flames. 

It was important for David Nash to remove the burning timbers from the Elm rather than hose the surface down with water as he had done with the Redwood. This preserved the fine layer of white ash that forms when Elm is scorched. 

Photographs were then taken to record the White and Black forms together in the landscape.

The sculptures are well placed with the magnificent view looking back accross the park as a backdrop. This was the moment of magic when David said "now I'm going to turn it black!". 

By spraying the hot Elm with water the fine white ash was washed away and through the clouds of steam a great black mass emerged.

Where the two giant lumps of wood had been this morning there now stands a magnificent sculpture. Black Trunk Black Butt will remain here, a black presence beside the Longside Gallery, for the duration of the exhibition. 

Back at the Underground Gallery the sculpture Iron Dome has finally arrived from Shanghai Sculpture Park. At the moment it's giant constituent lumps are randomly standing like a crowd of rusty menhirs at a heavy metal concert.

Soon each one will be placed in its predetermined position and the sculpture will appear. 

Also See -

A Big Burn video

David Nash profile

Yorkshire Sculpture Park group profile

A Big Burn and the bees get smoked! Pete Telfer ArtLog

External web sites -

www.ysp.co.uk Yorkshire Sculpture Park

www.westyorksfire.gov.uk West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

Members' Comments

  1. by Sonja Benskin Mesher RCA on May 3rd, 2010

    are the ones on the last image, metal? xs
  2. by Erin Rickard on May 4th, 2010

    rusty metal, smouldering wood... very magical.

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