David Nash works delicately with indelicate materials, leaving much to chance and nature and demonstrating sensitivity to certain complementary realities: growth and decay, cause and effect, and force and resistance. Nash’s sculpture Downpour, for example, began as a hefty column from the trunk of a tree before being filigreed by a chainsaw and charred black at the base with a blowtorch. Kenneth Baker, in the San Francisco Chronicle, suggested that “internal contradictions improbably give the piece content,” whether by coaxing a sense of movement from something static, or by using a fiery torch to mimic the effects of water.
Born in England in 1945, Nash grew up in England and Wales. He attended the Kingston College of Art and the Chelsea School of Art, and he was exhibiting his work internationally by 1973. He quickly became known for a unique dexterity with the cumbersome tools he uses to carve his wood sculptures. Although rough and dense, his sculptures as well as his drawings and earthworks reveal a metaphysical sensitivity to space and material. When creating Ash Dome, a ring of ash saplings he planted and then coaxed to grow into a dome shape, Nash acknowledged this sensitivity. He said in 1996, “I am guiding the trees in the manner of the ancient Chinese potters who kept their minds on the invisible volume of space inside their pot and worked the clay up around the shape of that space.”
Even when wielding a chainsaw, Nash yields to nature, often intending forms cut from wood to continue cracking and warping as the wood dries with age. In the catalog to Nash’s 1994 exhibition Voyages and Vessels, Graham W. J. Beal notes that Nash’s choice to work with green wood ensures “that nature would have the last word in finishing the piece.”
The work of David Nash has been extensively exhibited internationally since the 1970s. His work at Crown Point Press in 1997 considered elemental geometric forms: the cube, pyramid, and sphere. In 2010, an extensive survey was mounted at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, including over 200 drawings, sculptures, and installations from Nash’s forty year career. Works by the artist are held in roughly a hundred public collections worldwide, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. He is represented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco. David Nash currently lives and works in Wales.
-Christine M. Peterson, Crown Point Press