Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Wave - poppies installed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

My parents live about 20 minutes away from Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), and pretty much every time I visit my childhood home I like to make a trip to YSP to enjoy the beautiful expansive green grounds and see the current exhibitions.

Over my lifetime, YSP has grown from strength to strength, and last year it was awarded the 2014 Museum of the Year. YSP is one of the four galleries making up The Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, and with increased recognition, it continues to attract a healthy and varied audience. It seemed particularly busy today, maybe because of the nature of the current exhibition. 

"Wave, a sweeping arch of bright red poppy heads suspended on towering stalks, by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, rises up from YSP’s Lower Lake, reaching over the Park’s historic Cascade Bridge.

The sculpture – along with Weeping Window, a cascade comprising several thousand handmade ceramic poppies seen pouring from a high window to the ground below – was initially conceived as one of the key dramatic sculptural elements in the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London in the autumn of 2014. 

Over the course of their time at the Tower, the two sculptures were gradually surrounded by a vast field of ceramic poppies, each one planted by a volunteer in memory of the life of a British and Colonial soldier lost during the First World War. In their original setting they captured the public imagination and were visited by over five million people."


If I am completely honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the piece. Although I didn't see the poppies when they were installed in London, and so am basing my judgement purely on the documentation of the installation in the capital, Wave lacked the impact and intensity of the original artwork. I think with works like this, the wow factor is created through its scale and therefore with far fewer poppies, it is hardly surprising that the impact of Wave is reduced as opposed to when it was part of a bigger whole. 

Regardless of this, the work has attracted a huge audience, including those who have never been to YSP before. One of the questions this raises is whether it is worthwhile to exhibit a smaller part of an installation which has less of an impact in order to prolong its life and increase its reach to a wider audience. 

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