An Ayrshire Arts Archive ~ Arts Groups and Venues

Maclaurin Art Collection, Ayr

The Work

David Nash (b. 1945) Elemental Boat, River Girvan, Ayrshire 1986, hewn and charred oak.  Maclaurin Art Collection, Ayr.  ©David Nash.  Photograph ©M Bailey 1993   magnify

From a fallen oak David Nash hewed a boat shaped like a double wishbone. This shape is immanent in the tree, its possibility characteristic of what the tree is. Nash conceives of a world woven of primitive elements (space, earth, air, water and fire) and his art as a way of attending to the way things are in the world. His is a domain of neither wilderness nor town, rather he stresses the axial nature of our productive involvement with the land. In agricultural practices throughout the world, trees have comprised both a resource (for building and burning) and a limit (to the size of crop fields), and have been both treated as vegetable vermin and revered. Nash considers wood the pre-eminent material for engaging the elements, poetically and practically. He extends farming techniques to his artistic ends, and fire is the most protean of these tools. Fire solders microchips and produces continental grasslands. The Elemental Boat focusses these elements in a three-hour ritual of cauterisation and quenching, annealing the surface of the cut wood and charring it to a parody of bark. Nash's is a disturbing art, for its use of land-management techniques in the absence of an economic necessity can highlight that myopic reconstruction of the natural world that is indeed the aim and consequence of an agriculture that seeks to dominate nature with its unnaturing practices.

From Exhibition Publication, The Unpainted Landscape, Scottish Arts Council and Coracle Press 1987.   A Hard Singing of Country
© David Reason and Coracle Press.

Origin of the Work

Twenty Five years ago, in the Spring of 1984, James Bustard of the Scottish Arts Council asked Coracle to organise an exhibition of very physical, literalistic sculpture to be toured within Scotland.  The outcome, created in collaboration with the Graeme Murray Gallery in Edinburgh was a remarkable and unsettling collection of largely sculptural works shown under the title of The Unpainted Landscape.

David Nash (b.1945)  Launching Eleemental Boat, River Girvan, Ayrshire 1986, oak.  Maclaurin Art Collection, Ayr.  Photograph ©David Nash 1986   magnify

In an introduction to the selected works, author Simon Cutts of Coracle Press, speaks of a selection of some artists who, while working with the landscape, do so in another way.  They did not try to reproduce the appearance of the landscape by way of painted effects.  Here, the artists have chosen to work with wider means than the traditional oil or watercolours.  They have used the recording photograph, the idea of time and sequence to make a journey, the notion of change and substitution in a place.  Overall, there is a strong physical presence that reflects an event that occurred in another time and another place.

The exhibition was launched at the Maclaurin Art Gallery in Ayr on 10th January, 1987, subsequently touring to Stromness, Edinburgh Aberdeen, Glasgow and St Andrews.  In preparation for the exhibition, staff at the Maclaurin worked closely with sculptor David Nash, helping him find a location in which to make his work, assisting in the realisation of the work and, eventually, acquiring his Elemental Boat for the permanent collection

This brief article touches on the Unpainted Landscape exhibition, the work of David Nash and the item acquired for the Maclaurin Collection.

David Nash, Elemental Boat, River Girvan, Ayrshire 1986

Nash visited Ayrshire in the Spring of 1986.  Over a period of two days, in company Mike Bailey, Director of the Maclaurin Art Gallery, he visited a variety of locations in the Carrick area, including Loch Bradan, Dunure, Culzean and Straiton.  Finally, during an exploration of the Blairquhan Estate, a fallen oak was found beside the river Girvan.  This piece was ideal for the creation of an elemental boat.  In late summer of 1986, Nash returned to the River and completed his work.

David Nash(b.1945)  Fashioning the Elemental Boat, River Girvan, Ayrshire 1986, oak.  Maclaurin Art Collection, Ayr.  Photograph ©David Nash 1986   magnify

Following his usual practice of creating his work close to an exhibition venue, David Nash had chosen to come to Scotland to make his work for the exhibition.  He settled on a river location on the Blairquhan Estate in Ayrshire. In this way the sculpture was directly related to the landscape and practical problems of transportation minimised. A fallen oak tree was selected and hewn into the shape of a vessel, burnt beside the bank of the River Girvan and launched into the water through a fire kindled from discarded material. The object or "relic" of this activity reveals the origins of its making in the fusion of the natural elements of fire, earth, air and water, which support life.

David Nash(b.1945)  Drawing for Elemental Boat 1986 charcoal and pastel on paper.   ©David Nash 1986.    Photograph 1994 ©M. Bailey   magnify

Compiled by Mike Bailey

Top  ~  Back to Maclaurin Trust Projects  ~ Back to Studio Visit

David Nash ~ Elemental Boat 1986

The Artist

David Nash



1945        Born in Esher, Surrey
1963-64   studied at Kingston College of Art
1964-66   Brighton College of Art
1969-70   Chelsea School of Art
1970        Purchased chapel in Blaenau Ffestiniog as studio and home.
1973        Exhibitions at Queen Elizabeth Hall, York, Oriel, Bangor, Wales.
1977        Planted Ash Dome saplings.
1980        First charred works were made in Japan
1980        Exhibitions at Elise Meyer Gallery, New York, Galleria Cavallino,
               Venice, Italy.
1999        Works in bronze, using earth and fire in the process
1999        Elected Royal Academician
               Appointed Research Fellow, University of Northumbria, Newcastle
               Awarded Honorary Doctorate in Art & Design, Kingston University
2004        Awarded OBE for services to the arts

Participation in Key Group Exhibitions

1975    Condition of Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, London
1980    British Art Now: An American Perspective, Soloman (1981)
           R Guggenheim Museum, New York
1981    British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century, Part II, Whitechapel Art
           Gallery, London
1982    Aspects of British Art Today, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
1995    Here and Now, Serpentine Gallery, London
1999   The Shape of the Century: 100 Years of Sculpture in Britain, Salisbury
;          Cathedral and Canary Wharf, London

Recent Solo Exhibition (selected)

2009    Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany
2008    Kunsthalle Emden, Sinclair Haus, Bad Homburg,
           Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany
           Galeria Alvaro Alcazar, Madrid
2007    Kukje Gallery, Seoul,   Lewes Town Hall, Sussex
2006    Midlands' National Forest,   Galerie im Prediger,
           Schwabisch Gmund, Germany
2005    Annely Juda Fine Art, London
2001    Kunst im Bethmannhof, Frankfurt,
           Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo,
           Annely Juda Fine Art, London
2000    Oriel 31, Newtown and tour to Wrexham Art Centre;
           Burford House Gallery, Ludlow; 
           Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea
           Exhibition on Chicago’s Museum Campus, Chicago
2000    Galerij S65, Aalst, Belgium,   Galerie Lelong, Paris
           Centre for Visual Arts, Cardiff;
           The Old Market Hall, Blaenau Ffestiniog
           Sculpture at Schoenthal Monastery, Langenbruck
           State Bridge Street Gallery, Chicago
1999    Artists’ Gardens, Weimar
1997    LA Louver, Los Angeles, 
           Hans Mayer Galerie, Dusseldorf
           Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, 
           Haines Gallery, San Francisco, PYO Gallery, Seoul
1996    Art Affairs, Amsterdam,   Cairn Gallery, Nailsworth
           Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
1995    Gianni Giacobbi Arte Contemporaneo,
           Palma de Mallorca
1994    Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha;
           Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego;
           The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu;
           Madison Art Center, Wisconsin
           Asahikawa Museum of Art, Hokkaido;
           Nagoya City Art Museum;
           Ashiya City Museum of Art & History, Kobe;
           The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama;
           The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura;
           Tsukuba Museum of Art, Ibaraki;
           Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo
1992    Jan Weiner Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
           Peter Pears Gallery, Aldeburgh;
           Space 34 and The Marland Gallery, Snape Maltings
1991    Centre for Contemporary Art,
           Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
           Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno, Wales, 
           Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield
1990    Serpentine Gallery, London; National Museum of Wales,
           Cardiff; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art,

Works in Public collections (selection)

Aberdeen Art Gallery
Ayr Art Gallery (Maclaurin Art Collection)
City of Edinburgh
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Abbot Hall Art Gallery & Museum, Kendal, Cumbria
Arts Council of Great Britain, London
British Council, London
Contemporary Art Society, London
Government Art Collection, London
Grizeldale Forest, Cumbria
Leeds City Art Gallery
Manchester City Council
Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield
Tate Gallery, London
Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
Margam Sculpture Park, Newport, Wales
National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
Welsh Contemporary Art Society, Cardiff
National Museum, Dublin
Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Stedelijk Museum, Aalst, Belgium
Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe, Otterloo
Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterloo
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
Tickon Environmental Sculpture Park, Langeland, Denmark
Museum of Modern Art, Caracas
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
St Louis Art Museum
San Diego Museum of Art, California
Soloman R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Ishiya City Museum of Art and History
Nagoya City Museum
Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo
Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Utsunomiya
Ho-Am Art Museum, Seoul
National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul

David Nash RA is represented by Annelly Juda Fine Art.  He lives and worked in Snowdonia, North Wales.

Links and Supplementary Information

When considering the best work to purchase for the Maclaurin Collection, the gallery director, Mike Bailey, visited Nash's studio and some of his field locations in Snowdonia.

A series of images from that visit can be found by following this LINK

In considering the relevance of this work in the collection profile reference could be made to acquisitions from Bridget Riley, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Royden Rabinowitch and Dawn Gray.

Other Links

David Nash

Forest of Dean

Maclaurin Art Collection

Annelly Juda Fine Art

The Coracle Press

Creative Ayrshire acknowledges the assistance of Mike Bailey for the provision of material for this section of the website.

Top ~ Back to Cultural Index