A major exhibition of sculptures carved and manipulated out of wood by the sculptor and land artist David Nash, opens at National Museum Cardiff today to celebrate 50 years - and 200 seasons - of the artists life and work in Capel Rhiw, a former Methodist chapel in Blaenau Ffestiniog. David Nash: Sculpture through the Seasons is the largest and most ambitious exhibition of Nash's work ever presented in Wales. 

A major publication David Nash: 200 Seasons at Capel Rhiw accompanies the exhibition provides a unique exploration of how Nash has transformed Capel Rhiw into a working studio, family home and one of the most inspirational, evolving art spaces in the world, a process that unfolded over 50 years. Capel Rhiw has been at the centre of Nash's life and work for over half a century doubling as home and studio, he has developed the space into an extraordinary sculptural installation in which he gathers and arranges his 'congregation' or 'family' of sculptures. 

David Nash said,

I have lived with the seasons of the Ffestiniog valley for seven decades and at Capel Rhiw for five. Its environment and mountains have been my inspiration and companion.

Capel Rhiw has been home for my family and a gathering place for the sculptures that have been made in the valley and overseas. This exhibition is a celebration the seasons, the weather, the trees, the making and the life. These art works have been kept as a “congregation”, a collection, a legacy for this exhibition at National Museum Cardiff."

The exhibition will feature key sculptures from the late 1960s to the present day, his manipulation of wood produces work that crosses abstraction and figuration, yet always retains reference to the forms of the original tree and the unique qualities of the chosen material. Trees and wood have always been central to Nash’s practice which has led to his ‘growing sculptures’ – works that mark the passing of time within landscape and nature. This includes Ash Dome (1977-), where the planting and tending of 22 ash trees created a living sculptural space, and also Wooden Boulder (1978-), which marks the journey over many years of a carved boulder from stream-bed to open sea. These time-based works feature in the exhibition through documents including photographs, films and drawings.

In February 2019 after discovering that Ash Dome was showing signs of Ash die-back disease Nash planted twenty-two oak trees around the work. When the ash trees begin to decline, the oaks will, over two generations of nurturing, grow into a new living sculpture for the future. ‘Oak Dome’, as Nash already calls it, ‘will bring new life and hope to what would otherwise be a very sad space’. 

While much of Nash’s work has been made in or from the landscape and natural environment of Blaenau Ffestiniog, he has also travelled widely to work with trees and communities across the world. These stories feed into the exhibition, and work made in overseas ‘wood quarries’ and retained for the Capel Rhiw collection also feature in the exhibition.

David Nash has had many important solo exhibitions and international surveys of sculpture and his work is represented in major museum collections around the world. Recent major exhibitions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2010-11) and Kew Gardens (2012) have underlined his international importance as a sculptor and land artist. David Nash Sculpture through the Seasons reflects on how this international reputation was formed in the particulars of place of Blaenau Ffestiniog, north Wales.

One of David Nash’s signature works will also be displayed at St Fagans National Museum of History during the exhibition. Crack and Warp Column (2013) was created through a series of parallel horizontal cuts made with a chainsaw in an unseasoned column of oak. 

Nicholas Thornton, Head of Contemporary Art, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales,

David Nash is one of Britain’s most important artists - his work has featured in exhibitions around the world and he is represented in many major museum collections.

We are delighted to be showing Nash’s internationally acclaimed work to a Welsh audience but just as importantly exploring for a UK-wide audience the way Capel Rhiw, Blaenau Ffestiniog and the surrounding landscape of Snowdonia have had such an important role in shaping his work and career as an artist."

Have a look at what's in store for this extraordinary exhibition