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David Nash

Born 1947, Surrey

Lives and works in Blaennau Ffestinniog, Gwynedd, Wales

David Nash followed a foundation course at Kingston College of Art in 1963 before completing a degree at Brighton College from 1964-67 and then a Master’s degree at Chelsea School of Art from 1969-70. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1999 and in 2004 he was awarded the OBE.

In 1967 he moved to Blaenau Ffestiniog, a slate-quarrying village in North Wales where he had spent holidays as a child. He bought a redundant chapel and converted it over the years to provide both a home and studio.

As a student, David Nash was interested in Chinese culture. He also found resonance in the Abstract Expressionist work of Arshile Gorky and in Minimalism although he found the absence of temperament in the latter unsympathetic. The exhibition New Generation held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1965, which included works by Philip King and William Tucker, was also an influence. Coincidentally, some of the earliest paintings in the University of Warwick Art Collection were also bought from the same exhibition.

From the late 1960s, he began to concentrate on wood as the material for his work. His Silver Birch Tripod in the Arts Council Collection, shown at the Mead Gallery in 2014, demonstrates his approach of working with and through nature. The three separate trunks have been stripped of bark and branches but it is the natural kinks that create the tripod: identified and constructed by the artist but not shaped. Later works include boxes that have been left to crack and warp, the movement of the unseasoned wood is an integral part of the sculpture.

The 2014 exhibition at the Mead Gallery was called Uncommon Ground and examined land art in Britain from 1966 t0 1979. David Nash has a body of work that addresses the land directly. One such work is Wooden Boulder which began in 1978. He carved a large wooden sphere and then put it into a stream high in the North Wales hills. Over the years the boulder has been washed downstream, sometimes getting lodged in the river banks, at others completely disappearing for period of years. Eventually it reached the estuary of the river Dwyryd between Portmeirion and Harlech and was washed out to sea, only to reappear in the estuary again after a high tide.

A third body of work deploys the fundamental geometry of the cube, sphere and pyramid. Many works are charred, the vegetable matter of the wood transformed into carbon: a contraction of a natural process that takes millennia.

Alongside, David Nash makes drawings of pastel and charcoal in rich earth colours. The drawings sometimes crystallise ideas for works or come from ideas generated by the works themselves.

Habitat drawing