Last weekend, we made a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park — a wonderful, enormous, outdoor art gallery near Wakefield. I'd never been before, but it won't be the last time I visit, because there was so much to see. Even if you're not into art and sculpture, there are some lovely walks through the parkland and woodlands, and it would be worth visiting just for that. It's worth mentioning that entry is free, and you only need to pay for parking (currently £4 per car), or arrive by bus.
It's hard to know where to start, because I enjoyed so many of the art works. I've loved Andy Goldsworthy's pieces for a long time so I enjoyed his Hanging Trees and Outclosure. The Hanging Trees are dry stone wall boxes set into a length of wall, containing a horizontally suspended tree, which you look down on as if on a corpse in a coffin. Outclosure is a perfectly circular, tall dry stone wall, set in a woodland clearing. It is too tall to see over (unless you are very tall), and the tight perfection of the stone work makes you feel as if you are being kept out of something you'd really like to get into.
I also loved James Turrell's Deer Shelter. As the name suggests, this is built out of an old deer shelter in the parkland, and takes the form of a kind of bunker, built into the earth. You enter it through one of two dark tunnels, which feels a bit like entering a Neolithic barrow might. You come out into a square, white room with a perfectly square opening in the roof, through which you can see only sky. Around the edge of the room, there are cool, concrete benches, with sloping back rests that encourage you to lean back and look up at the square of sky. I can't explain exactly why, but I found it magical. It is quiet in the room, though it echoes like a cathedral, and you can hear distant sounds from the outside and feel the breeze. Framing a section of the sky seems to really mess with your depth perception. The first time we went in, there was low, uniformly grey sky, and it was as if the sky was simultaneously flat and sitting right above our heads and also thousands of miles above us. Every now and again, you would catch a glimpse of a swift rocketing across the sky and that would give it sudden and shocking scale. Later, after it had brightened up and we were hot and tired from a long walk, we went in again, and the coolness, breeze and tranquility of watching the clouds drift across the blue square of sky was delicious and mesmerising. I could honestly have stayed there all day, and just enjoyed the changing light. I'd love to be in there when it rains. The benches are under the covered part of the roof, so you could look up into a square column of falling rain drops, while remaining mostly dry.
Rather late in the day, we found the indoor, underground gallery, which was showing a lot of pieces by Peter Randall Page. I don't think I've ever seen his work before, but I loved it. Photography wasn't allowed in the gallery, so you'll have to see the website for pictures of the indoor works, but the pieces were mostly huge, beautifully carved blocks of granite or limestone. They have very organic shapes, and look like seeds or cells blown up to gigantic proportions. Unfortunately, you weren't allowed to touch, which was a great shame, because they made you want to stroke them to feel the texture or trace the engraved lines. I'm not usually a fan of abstract works, but I really liked all of his pieces. He also had some wall mounted pieces, which were made from shapes of dried clay, split and opened out into mirror symmetrical patterns which formed an overall egg shape or pair of wings. They reminded me of ink blots or tissue slices mounted on a glass slide, or perhaps slices of an MRI scan. I think that the patterns — regular, but with organic imperfections and irregularities — were what I liked so much about them, and it's also what I like about a lot of Andy Goldsworthy's work.