13 September 2008
The website for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park says that it is 'an extraordinary place that sets out to challenge, inspire, inform and delight'. This is not merely marketing spin - I highly recommend this interesting, stimulating and free outdoor sculpture park for an enjoyable day trip.
The best thing about the YSP is that you can circle, examine and stroke the modern sculptures which are scattered around the gloriously bucolic scenery. As you set off for a brisk country stroll you are suddenly confronted by an Alice in Wonderland moment - a giant, sexually provocative prowling hare. Walk along the river and you're surprised by a menacing stampede of red hair rollers, their colours disappearing and reappearing in the sunlight. Metal slugs crawl and rise above the grass. Pull apart the greenery to cross a bridge with a pun which is not only a literal 'a bridge over a haha (a Yorkshire term for the low stone walls which keep sheep out)' but which induces an involuntary 'haha' moment after you understand the pun.
YSP are currently showing the first European exhibition of the works of Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American sculpture and designer who was an assistant for the Mt Rushmore carvings. However, he's most famous for designing the washi paper and bamboo-framed Akari lantern (sparking endless copies in Ikea) and his iconic, organically shaped and perfectly balanced coffee table - which to my amazement I discovered was the same as the coffee table in my flat (spot the difference)!
I really enjoyed Noguchi's tactile sculptures, and I could see the influence of Brancusi in his works, with their consistent theme of a strong interlocking form but at the same time precariously balanced. In the indoors underground gallery, I loved 'Water Table' - a heavy marble slab perfectly balanced on an egg-shaped rock with dips scooped out and filled with water, and the polished perfection inside the cylindrical twist of metal. Several of his sculptures were set outdoors, like round of earth curves rising from the ground.
At the moment there is also an exhibition of Sophie Ryder's wire pictures and 'Lady Hare' sculptures. I never thought that wire could be used in such a way to denote light and shade, and her works were as delicately shaded as if they'd been drawn in charcoal. The most striking work was the giant all-seeing eye suspended against the bright blue sky, which cast its benevolent presence over the poufs of gently grazing sheep and specks of wandering humans.
Direct trains from London Kings Cross to Wakefield Westgate take around 2 hours 15 minutes and if you book early enough and fix your train times, it only costs £20 return. At the station, the only way to get to the park is via a taxi, which costs about £10 one way.