Monday 23 July 2012

Et in Arcadia ego

Last week we spent a few days at Grandma and Grandad's. One day it looked like a small ray of sunshine was threatening to poke its thumb through a cloud so we grabbed our brollies and headed off to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. What an amazing place! Bill Packer of the Financial Times described it as "probably the finest exhibition site for sculpture in the world". While I can't claim to have visited the alternatives, I'd be inclined to agree with Bill. With Hepworths peppered across a hill, a sculpture by Richard Long reclining by a lake and numerous Henry Moore pieces popping out between sheep in a meadow, a backdrop of Yorkshire countryside and a faint smell of silage in the July air, what more could a northerner ask for? West Yorkshire has produced more than its fair share of iconic sculptors, and boasts Hepworth and Moore amongst its famous sons and daughters. It is therefore wonderful that the county houses such a great collection... and the pieces look utterly at home in their surroundings: aptly signposted Arcadia (in poetic fantasy Arcadia represents a pastoral paradise).

The Sculpture Park was also great for Culturebaby. The site comprises around 500 acres of countryside with hills, animals, lakes, a country house and sculptures popping up round every corner. There are good paths, most of which are pram and wheelchair friendly and fabulous views. She bounced with excitement in her pram as we walked around.

Our three favourite things from this visit were:

  1. The first major UK exhibition of sculpture by Joan MirĂ³, which contained some wonderful, bright sculptures in primary colours, and large images. Culturebaby was really interested in these, and the only disappointment was that she wasn't able to reach out and touch the exciting textured surfaces!
  2. In the Orangery we stumbled upon William Pye's Offspring. This was the highlight of the whole trip for Culturebaby and a fantastic sensory experience. The sculpture, in polished mirrored steel, is a large waterfeature with water running down the surface. She was able to touch the sculpture, put her hands into the water, splash and view herself in the distorted reflective surfaces. She spent a long time with the work, babbling away at it, and continually reaching out.
  3. I'm rather a fan of Richard Long's work. He speaks both to my inner archaeologist and art historian with his themes of walking and creatively leaving marks on the landscape. (For a good book on this see Renfrew's Figuring it Out.) In a beautiful spot by the lake we found Red Slate Line (1986). Perhaps it was because it was a glorious day, but the red of the slate, though incongruous with its surroundings, helped to pick out the purple of the foxgloves, the trees and the lake, lending the scene an otherworldly quality. The walk there was exciting for Culturebaby, along the side of the lake, passing a number of interesting works, and we had great fun exploring the site itself. The loop from there back to the car also took us through a meadow with sheep and Henry Moore sculptures.
A couple of hours was nowhere near enough to scratch the surface of the park (particularly given that we rather misjudged our explorations and had to dash up a rather steep hill at the end - we must have looked rather a sight (at least to the curious sheep) - a trail of increasingly flustered bodies taking it in turns to push a pram), but it served to whet our appetites. For all of us it was an ideal combination of fresh air and nature, art and entertainment. Next time I think a few more hours will be required...


  1. YSP is great fun, you've reminded me that we should go again soon. Nice pics.

    1. Thanks. We really enjoyed it - can imagine it is good for a mix of ages too. Will be going back next time we are up North. Advantage is it's on the (slightly) drier side of the Pennines too...

  2. Hiya, not sure if you've been before but I just went to the Sculpture Park in Surrey ( and I thought of your blog as it was an amazing place for children and adults - and if you haven't been, I highly recommend!

    1. Lucy, this looks fab, and not far from my in laws. May have to pay it a visit soon x


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...