Nick Hackworth

David Nash, Annely Juda

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Far from Greenwich, in the valley of Blaenau Ffestiniog, in the heart of North Wales, there lies a dome. P Y Gerbeau, has, as far as we can tell, been nowhere near it. Nor did its construction cost the taxpayer a billion pounds.

Planted in 1977 by the environmental sculptor David Nash, Ash Dome consists of 22 ash trees standing in a quiet circle. Under his guiding hand, the trees’ growth has been shaped. A little way up each trunk is a 45-degree bend, as if the trees were bending at the knee. Leaning clockwise in concert, they resemble a circle of dominoes frozen in the act of falling.

In a slightly belated celebration of this millennium circle, Nash has decided to exhibit drawings and photographs that record the dome’s journey from inception to birth to maturity.

A mass of unframed drawings crowds one wall of the sunlit main gallery. Most of them, executed swiftly in pencil, charcoal or pastel, do no more than convey an impression of the dome’s form or trace the branches of the trees in thin lines of lead, and they are but fragments of the artist’s experience. They are enough, however, to make you want to rest beneath that placid canopy on a sun-flooded summer’s day.

Also in the main gallery stand three sculptures hewn from tall blocks of pale ash whose cuts of differing depth and frequency impose an alien, man-made regularity upon the wood. The next room, smaller and bereft of sunlight, is occupied by pieces made of charred wood. Village Husk, the most imposing, is made of 46 interlocking hollowed blocks of charred
maple, vaguely resembling the post-apocalyptic remains of an ancient city. In both groups of work, Nash focuses attention on the surface qualities of the wood, the simple beauty of the charring with brightness of the denuded ash.

Inevitably, work that is so grounded in the natural will act as a mirror, reflecting the viewer’s love of the natural back at them, but in the middle of the big, bad city, perhaps that is enough.

Until 21 July (020 7629 7578)