Earth, Air, Water and Fire

BY TOM JOHNSON

Hidden away within a corner of Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a work that harnesses the classical elements of earth, air, water, and fire. Beside the lake, in the open air, stand pieces of wood that have been charred black. The work, by the artist David Nash, is called ‘Black Mound.’

Black Mound. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo by Tom Johnson
Black Mound. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo by Tom Johnson

The artist used pieces of carved oak of different sizes set within in a ground of charcoal. The pieces of oak were carefully burnt in a controlled fire, transforming their appearance. What remains are unusual looking objects set within a circle.

In changing the surface colour of the wood the dark shade of the charring offers a sharp contrast to the green surroundings of grass and trees. The oak becomes more distant and abstract from its usual association with a tree, or as a material for practical use. Nash states that the burning process transforms the surface of the oak from a plant to a mineral, carbon. This process can also change a viewer’s perception.

Close up of Black Mound Photo by Tom Johnson.
Close up of Black Mound Photo by Tom Johnson.

Black Mound was made in December of 2013, but its relationship to the land and its referencing of the elements, conjures up a prehistoric vision. The artwork was created partly to accompany another work by Nash a few footsteps away. Upon a grass banking are planted 49 birch trees in a grid of 7 by 7. The idea of the piece, called ‘49 Square’, is that the trees will grow over time, creating a cube shape, with the birch’s white colour providing a marked contrast to the shades of ‘Black Mound’.

49 Square. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo by Tom Johnson
49 Square. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo by Tom Johnson

 

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