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Alabaster Heads by Jaume Plensa at the YSP

On a trip up north last week for a Christmas present drop off to family we stopped off at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I have to admit it was mainly because I’d discovered it had a nice place to eat and was just off the motorway. These places are hard to come by when you’re getting from A to B.

I’m a bit embarrassed at the number of times we must have driven past this place and never stopped off before. My previous experiences of sculpture parks generally haven’t been great. Some places have been damp squibs where we have been left wondering where the sculptures were and more often than not what were the sculptures. There is one near to us that is worth a visit but the YSP was a bit of a revelation.

The beautiful parkland of the Bretton Estate would make for a lovely walk in it’s own right with majestic trees and lovely views but the YSP use the parkland as an enormous outdoor exhibition space. Dotted through the grounds are sculptures including works by Henry Moore and Andy Goldsworthy.

Then there is the main complex with the excellent visitor facilities and indoor gallery spaces. The main exhibition on at the moment is by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. I hadn’t heard of him before but was blown away by his work. There were outdoor sculptures using the human body and this theme was continued in the indoor galleries. He managed to make me smile, made me jump and made me gawp open mouthed in wonder. The sculpture that made me smile was a 50 metre wall of metal letters suspended like a curtain. As you walk along the curtain and move the letters they make a beautiful noise like a windchime. From the youngest children to the oldest adults everyone had a smile on their faces as they walked past making the sounds. The sculpture that made me jump was the gallery that had a circle of large metal gongs which you could strike and fill the gallery with sound. Wellyman hit one of the gongs a little harder than he meant to and the sound created was incredible.

And the sculptures that made me gawp were a group of albaster carved human heads with light shining on them . This created an incredibly powerful and beautiful effect.

The other exhibition I loved was that of Donna Wilson who has been inspired by nature to create knitted sculptures. She was named Elle Decoration Designer of the Year in 2010 and her exhibition at the YSP is fun, quirky, bright and cheerful.

Alec Finlay Poem on display at the YSP

In the lee of the red brick walled garden is a greenhouse. Just a normal greenhouse that you might find in your average back garden. This is a work of art created by Alec Finlay called Propagator. Inside are terracotta pots arranged on the greenhouse staging. Planted in each pot was a plant label on which was typed a mesostic poem relating to a plant. I know I  hadn’t heard of mesostic poems before. It is where a vertical word intersects with horizontal words which relate to or describe the vertical word. I thought they were so quirky and interesting it made me want to incorporate something like it into my own garden.

I can highly recommend a visit to the YSP. It is only 1 mile from junction 38 of the M1 which makes it an excellent place to stop off, stretch your legs, see something different and the food at the cafe is excellent.

For more information go to http://www.ysp.co.uk.

The Jaume Plensa exhibiton runs until 22nd January 2012 and the Donna Wilson exhibition runs until 26th February 2012.