David Nash - Nature to Nature | Fondation Fernet-Branca

Loosely associated with the Chelsea school when young, David Nash now works in darkest Wales. And he works with wood. Wood, in all its forms - burnt into charcoal, cut into columns, melded into stacks - is the basis of all the works in this show, taking up most of this former distillery in Alsace, near the Swiss border.

It’s the sculptures that stand out here, in which Nash imposes a regularity and elegance onto what’s organic and wild. The show climaxes with a room in which all the wooden sculptures are burnt black: towering over the others is a 3.5 metre tall pair, King and Queen, from 2011.

Installation view

Nash makes these sculptures with the crudest of tools: a chainsaw and an axe. There’s something of the violence of creation, cutting the wood and then burning it, in these huge black sentinels.

More kindly is Nash’s land work. His most famous, Wooden Boulder, represented by a photo series in the final room of the Fondation Fernet-Branca show, saw Nash carve a large wooden ball, leave it in the Welsh woods, and photograph its progress over the years. This “free range sculpture” was tracked by Nash for 35 years, before it was finally swept away in heavy rains in 2015.

Just goes to show. You can master nature by cutting and burning, but, eventually, it will take back control.

Other Highlights

Nearby, I went to the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, a bizarre (but wonderful) architectural wonderland, featuring Zaha Hadid’s first building - a fire station - and local boys Herzog & de Meuron’s Schaudepot, in which, among a lot else, is the Eames archive. And a reproduction of the Eamses disappointingly grotty offices.

David Nash: Nature to Nature is at Fondation Fernet-Branca (Saint-Louis). May 27 - September 30 2018