Our trip to Barnard Castle was the precursor to another raid in our guerrilla campaign to explore the UK a weekend at a time. Leaving the kids at the in-laws in Crook (Pieland!), we took the Great North Road down to Wakefield for two days and one night of culture.
First stop: the new Hepworth Gallery. Ol’ big-ears would probably think the boxy, grey building a carbuncle, but I liked it. The full length windows give great views out onto the river Calder, the Calder and Hebble navigation, and the weir between them, where a couple of herons were patiently fishing.
The gallery itself is well worth a visit. It has lots of Barbara Hepworth stuff, as you might expect – sculpture, working models, tools; also art by many of her friends and contemporaries from her time in St. Ives, including work by both of her husbands – John Skeaping and Ben Nicholson; exhibitions of more recent works; the Gott collection of Yorkshire paintings; and a set of sketches of Stonehenge by Henry Moore, who, like Hepworth, was born locally.
I love Hepworth’s hollowed forms and they were the draw which brought us here, but it’s this painting from the Gott collection which I think will stay with me from this visit. It was painted in 1793 by Philip Reinagle. This reproduction really doesn’t do it justice.
The bridge, and the chancery chapel, are still there, right outside the gallery, although of course everything else has changed. A busy road crosses a functional modern bridge adjacent to this one, and the cows are gone, replaced by industrial estates and retail outlets (nothing you might call a shop). We popped into the chapel and found four women working on large mosaics which “have to be finished for tomorrow”.
To be honest, modern Wakefield is not pretty, but the Travelodge was spruce, smart and cheap and we ate really well – an evening meal at an Italian restaurant called Rustico and breakfast at Cafe 19, which was decorated with balloons, smelled of fresh paint, and where we were the first customers of their very first day. (If you happen to be in Wakefield it’s very close to the Travelodge, the breakfast is excellent, and ridiculously cheap. TBH tells me that the cakes are good too.)
From Wakefield it’s only a few miles to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park….
…we’ve been here a few times now. The park covers a sweep of hillside with reservoirs below, galleries and sculptures dotted about and another gallery on the far hillside opposite. We’ve never made it to the Longside Gallery which is the building in the centre of the picture above, and one thing I was looking forward to was being able to walk there and back without having to worry whether it was too far for the kids. Sadly, we still haven’t been over there, since the gallery was closed. We’ll just have to go back for the Anish Kapoor exhibition which opens in June.
We did have a good walk around the reservoirs (of which more in the next post).
The principal exhibition at the moment is of Joan Miro sculptures and lithographs. There’s a lot of works by other artists in the park, including many by Moore. I took lots of photos. Here’s a slideshow for those who are interested.
I’ve added details of artists to each photo (where I know). You might have to go to the flickr page and click on the relevant photo to see that.
What will really stick in my mind from this visit is the installation ‘Still’ in the chapel in the park, by the artist Jem Finer. He can tell you about it much better than I can…
When we saw some details about ‘Still’ in the visitor’s centre, I said to TBH: “Wasn’t Jem Finer one of The Pogues?”. I’m not sure that she was convinced, and was inordinately pleased to find that I was right. He’s come through the experience in much better shape than Shane McGowan. I realised later that I’d previously read about his subsequent career, and in particular about Long Player, a one thousand year composition. Without doubt my happiest memory of a gig is of The Pogues at Slosky’s in Manchester in the mid-eighties. A rare night.