Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been one of my favourite family days out since moving to Leeds nearly 8 years ago. Even for those who are not particularly interested in modern sculpture, the park provides the setting for a nice walk in the country that has enough variety to be worth doing through the seasons. We hadn’t been for a few months so visited again at the weekend.
As usual we walked from the visitor centre across to the Longside Gallery along Oxley Bank which gives a good view on one side over to Barnsley (this is probably the vista that the over-enthusiastic local regeneration team’s consultants saw which inspired them to envision remodelling Barnsley as “a Tuscan hill town” – they clearly couldn’t have visited the town itself…) and on the other to the Emley TV transmitter. Last weekend it was incredibly windy to add to the challenge!
Unfortunately the Longside Gallery was closed, but there were enough sculptures along the way to make up for this and at least the wind was mainly behind us when walking downhill back to the main buildings.
We then had an excellent and reasonably priced lunch at the cafe before going to see the Jaume Plensa exhibition at the Underground Gallery. Although the exhibitions there are usually good, we tend to visit them at the end of the circuit of the grounds when we are too tired to appreciate them (particularly if I’ve had to carry OMB on my shoulders up the hill…). I’m glad that we had stopped to eat and rest first this time, forced by the chill of the strong winds that had blown all round our walk,as it was a truly amazing exhibition and it would have been a shame to have just wandered round it quickly with half a mind on getting a hot drink.
I particularly liked that some of the exhibits were interactive and that the sculptor wanted you to hit (gently) the gongs in Jerusalem (2006) and to stroke the curtain of words in Twenty Nine Palms (2007). Although I like the Hepworth Gallery in nearby Wakefield and the curation and information provided there is very helpful in trying to give an understanding of the art, I always have the feeling with abstract modern art that I don’t quite get it. This was less of an issue with Plensa’s work. Even if I can’t claim to have understood it deeply, as most of it combined traditional beauty and elegance with words and quotations it was more accessible and satisfying in letting me feel I had appreciated it to some extent.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park is always worth a visit but if you can make it before 22 January 2012 to see the Jaume Plensa show so much the better. And all for a fiver’s parking – that’s proper Yorkshire.