A rainy Saturday and a trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park where the current lead exhibition is of works by Peter Randall Page.There's a load of his big pieces in the underground gallery and the surrounding garden as well as a range of his sketches and models in the little gallery at the top of the garden.
I have to confess to not spending very long in the company of the works in the underground gallery. YSP has a really annoying habit of giving great prominence to very grumpy sounding signs listing their rules of engagement. No touching, no photography, no this, no that. It is off putting and flies in the face of the spirit of the place which otherwise trys to make art and sculpture accessible and a part of the everyday landscape. In the accessible era of Tate Modern, blogging, flickr etc it feels horribly out of date. Churlish as it seems it ruins the experience for me. I totally understand the need to 'protect' the works they're displaying but it must be within the realms of their creativity (or even the creativity of the artists they're displaying) to find a better way of doing this. If there really is a reason why people can't take photographs at least explain that. There are no equivalent signs outside.
Outside feels a far more fitting place for his works anyway. There should be some sense of discovery involved in coming across his giant emulations of natural forms. They're like giant fossils or hardened husks of seeds, somehow looking like they have been there for millenia, forged by greater forces or arriving like meteorites. Emulation is the best word I can think of to describe what he's doing.
In his words “geometry is the theme on which nature plays her infinite variations, fundamental mathematical principle become a kind of pattern book from which nature constructs the most complex and sophisticated structures.” He uses highly geometrical and mathematical techniques to create something that looks as natural as nature. But clearly isn't. Which encourages reflection on both how remarkable and wonderful natural formations can be. And how much art, craft and cleverness is involved creating something as beautiful as that which nature can create for itself. The sculptor's art of somehow unleashing these froms from within the material he started with. Human collaboration with natural material to somehow make it more 'natural'.
As Marina Warner puts it, he "searches inside the stones for the concealed geometric patterns that structure the universe, at the level of the cell to the reaches of the galaxies: vortices such as those formed by the Fibonacci series, which can be found in the dumbfounding loveliness of the nautilus shell's inner spiral, in the radiating halo of a sunflower's face, in the vast revolutions of the Milky Way."
I didn't spend all that much time in the small garden gallery with his notebooks and models. But having read Marina Warner's review am tempted to go back to do so. It is rare to read credible sounding reviews comparing living artists with Michelangelo. It would be great to know more about each piece and understand more about his influences for each one. Given that they seem to have evolved it would be good to study their genesis. Is he applying the geometry and shapes of actual natural forms (each one has some sort of echo - honeycomb hexagons or animal stripes or fossil striations or seed pod shape). Or applying more abstract geometric principles and seeing where he ends up? I'd also like to reflect more on Marina Warner's theme of 'pleasure.' There is a definite sensuousness to his work, inevitably so with its organic, natural form. A warmth. And a joyful delight that flows from that.
Which may be what my fellow critic Jai Armstrong was on to all along. His judgement on these works were that they were clearly interestingly shaped curios or toys left rather untidily around the place by a now absent giant. A medium sized giant to be specific. Smart analysis for a 2.5 year old. Concluding with a 30 minute hunt to try and track the missing owner down. Essentially involving shouting 'giant' very loudly and pointing in possible directions that the gargantuan may have departed in. To the consternation of a passing adolescent clearly already harbouring issues about his 6 footedness. We never found the giant. But no doubt his upended treasure box will inspire more passersby of all ages.