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" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

The Oak Boulder

June 17th, 2011

Following on from the last post, here is another wonderful poem by Claire Dewey about David Nash’s boulder of oak…

“Oak Boulder “ Last Seen 2003

( A Poetic Tribute to David Nash’s 25 Years Art Project 1978 – 2003 Filming the journey of an oak boulder from North Wales to the sea)

All grown and ready,

Roots driven into riven earth,

You are scoop and ball, hauled, hewn.

An oaken boulder blundering and

Bowling the waterways in a slow tumble.

You navigate the mumbling spout and sputter

With a nod and wink.

This is unexpected.

The turn and twirl tugs at your raw surfaces

A tidal trail, a wooden snail.

Sucked in silt and stuck ashore.

Time passes, winds freshen,

You rock and roll once more.

Savouring the salt flats

The tang and taste of gritty shallows.

Rivulets of rushing jade and silver sheen

Tip and tilt you like a loaded dice.

This season sees you bobbing at dawn

Cocky as a cork and wearing an emerald shawl.

You warm to the tune of the wet and the wild.

Riding the estuaries with a stately glide,

You pause to rest on a ridge of stippled sand –

Sniff out the missing contours of the land.

Drunken dances dunk you in the splatter and splash

Of deepening channels – toss you aside.

Watery arms, sinuous with long lush weed, invite, embrace.

Rest is sweet beneath the cool cavern of a bridge.

Cattle cross, splash, graze. The heat is stifling.

Months mellow and corrugate your face.

You are a galleon now sailing high atop the rolling surf.

A solitude of snow temporarily halts your travels.

A fine artery floods and swells in glassy tubular

Curls, cresting the world with ice .

What a pudding you make!

Thaw and melt water trickle, softly whisper of wild waves –

Promise a passage on the open seas.

Claire Dewey

The Journey

June 17th, 2011

Oak’s qualities of endurance and strength are illustrated in a remarkable way in David Nash’s 25 year long art project Wooden Boulder. Back in 1978, Nash was given access to a felled oak from which he carved several sculptures. One of these was a giant oak ball which Nash attempted to transport via the nearby stream. In the process the ball became lodged down a water slide. This moment of frustration and obstacle signalled the birth of an artwork that encapsulates both patience and obsession. Roger Deakin writes about the artwork’s accidental beginnings in his wonderful book Wildwood:

At first it looked like a problem until, thinking it over in a Zen frame of mind, Nash realised it was an opportunity, a happy accident that would transform the work by enabling him to release it back to nature: to shed it like a leaf. He would let it go its own way and be a rock in a stream, with water playing about it, freezing to it, papering it with autumn leaves. From that moment on, it became ‘Wooden Boulder’, a new kind of work with its own independent life, its own story and the sculptor as its biographer.

Nash spent the next twenty five years tracking, sketching and photographing the boulder’s slow and unpredictable journey down a Welsh river to the ocean. Quite often the boulder would simply disappear and Nash would be compelled to put up wanted posters! It eventually found its way to the estuary and was last seen in 2003. Deakin writes,

I sense that perhaps ‘Wooden Boulder’ has become an alter ego for Nash: its unfolding story part of his life, the restless thing itself an embodiment of his soul. Something about it reminds me of the Irish story Sweeney Astray as told by Seamus Heaney. Sweeney, a poet king, is exiled, naked, into the wild, turned into a bird, flies about Ireland, lives in trees and roosts in the ivy, eating watercress and drinking from the rivers. There is a mythic feel to the story of ‘Wooden Boulder’. An artist turns a tree into a boulder, which miraculously floats and swims its way over many years towards the sea, where it rolls over like a seal and seems to disappear.

Nash’s boulder paradoxically speaks of both the transient and the eternal nature of being; the unpredictable passage of our life journeys; each of us propelled by the certain but often seemingly capricious nature of changing currents and landscapes. In our deepest selves we are at peace in that restless place, if we can allow ourselves to surrender to it. It carries us and shapes us. Nash’s extraordinary boulder reminds us we are a part of something that is mysteriously and magically unfolding; that we are creatures moved to search and yearn, only to ultimately find we are already home.