Perhaps choosing one of the windiest and wettest days of the winter wasn’t the best idea for a visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield. But having collected a bookshelf from Heckmondwike that I’d bought online, I wanted to go somewhere on the way back. Having not been to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for some time, it seemed like a good place to go and it has the advantage of being an opportunity for fresh air and no need to use my brainpower at all.
Although I enjoy art galleries, if I’m honest I’ve tended to side with the person (which appears to be either Ad Reinhardt or Barnett Newman, depending on what you read) who dismissed sculpture as “What you bump in to when you back up to see a painting.” But Yorkshire Sculpture Park is pretty unique and seeing many of these sculptures in the outdoors where the space allows you to see them more easily than in a cramped art gallery, and from different perspectives and types of setting around the varied landscape, really makes it an amazing place to visit. As well as the outdoors there are also a number of indoor galleries, although sadly two of them were in the process of changing over exhibitions on my visit and so there wasn’t anything on show.
The most famous sculptures at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park are those of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, who both came from nearby towns, and who both personally supported the Yorkshire Sculpture Park during their lives. Sculptors whose works you can’t help but touch and stroke when you see them with their smooth surfaces that are far more tactile than most that you see even if you don’t understand what they mean. But there’s so much more than just Hepworth and Moore, and it’s quite interesting just to wander around and see what you bump in to.
What stood out to me most on my visit was the audio-visual piece Song for Coal by Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson. This was a piece of music in the form of a plain song describing the origins and use of coal with images they recorded along the same lines that went to make up a constantly changing and evolving cathedral rose window. My description doesn’t do it justice, but it’s worth seeing and was very appropriately on display in the Chapel.
One sculpture that I’d seen on their website before visiting is also very unlike what you expect to see at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and was tucked away in a former boathouse in a remote part of the park. It was Eddy by three person collective JocJonJosch. The sculpture was a very simple but attractive round wooden boat designed with three oars, with the idea that it would be utterly useless if all three oars were used at once, which was further emphasised by the boathouse now being stranded away from the lake. It felt somehow quite relaxing and soothing and I think I loved that aspect of it as much of the sculpture itself.
I also discovered on my walk around the Deer Shelter Skyspace by James Turrell. This uses an existing part of the park, (which was originally the grounds of Bretton Hall, a large country house which is currently empty following the University of Leeds’ decision to move their art school elsewhere), to create a place specifically designed for reflection and contemplation. Turrell has created these skyspaces in a variety of locations around the world and they are simply large chambers with a hole in the roof which seems to bring the sky closer to you somehow. Presumably regular visitors get a sense of the changing colours that you see, but on my day it was given a different perspective by the howling wind you could hear outside whilst I was sat in shelter looking up at the sky.
There are around 60 sculptures on view at any one time, and there was so much I never saw, that I wish I had, but I feel that after yesterday’s visit I may well become a regular. It also has, as you would expect somewhere like this, a nice cafe and shop as well. Entry is free, but you do have to pay to park, which comes in at quite a hefty £8 if you are there for more than two hours.
I took loads of photographs, which you can see here, many of which again didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped when I could see the picture in my mind, but they give an idea of the variety of sculptures on view.