Nash works predominantly with wood, both living and dead. Interested in maintaining the integrity of the material, he opts to use natural methods when adding color to dead wood or shaping live wood. Organic and ominous, his forms immediately demand your attention. I think it would be difficult for anyone to face a David Nash sculpture and simply turn away; it requires contemplation. It invades your space in a way that's simultaneously confrontational and subtle. It reminded me of Richard Serra's work in the way you are required to interact with it. And maybe that's part of why I responded to it in the way I did; his sculptures are inviting. It was almost like being introduced to someone - a stranger who is somehow familiar - and having them invite you in to their house to have a conversation. I had a difficult time walking away.
I pondered the familiarity of Nash's work - intriguing given this was my first time experiencing it. Perhaps it’s because I could clearly see in his work what I admire in other artists; his designs were often reminiscent to that of Isamu Noguchi and Henry Moore; his choice to work with and manipulate natural materials reminded me of Andy Goldsworthy. There was a section of the exhibition that focused on works he completed as a response to the tragedy of 9-11. These works were grim - bold marks in black and gray spoke to the heaviness of the event, yet the grace of the line succeeded in capturing the ironic beauty present in the face of such horrific destruction (as a side note, I recall watching a program several years after the event that talked about that very issue; during the program a woman recounted a story of how she and her nine year old son were watching the events unfold on TV; her son remarked on the beauty of the clouds rising from the towers - he couldn't look away.). This bold line-work made me think of the architect portrayed in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead who threw down his drawings with the same air of confidence and decisiveness.
Even after writing all of these contemplations, I still don't know if I could definitively pinpoint what it is about David Nash's work that I respond so strongly to – there’s just something mysterious and ethereal about it. Almost like visiting the ruins of an ancient city. I jotted down a number of quotes by the artist regarding his work and I think he sums it up best. Here’s what Nash had to say in 1967 about his piece titled “Archway”: "I learned with these constructions about something developing its own logic that the viewer can enter into. It could have been an integrity and truth that one could feel. And also how a worked object developed its own scale - how it could go beyond the material, go beyond the colour, to have a sense of its own scale which the beholder entered into, which is actually different from its physical scale."