There are several textile artists I admire and follow on social media but when I first came across Mister Finch, his work was so unique and intriguing that I knew he was someone really special.
Five years on and I am delighted that his first major solo exhibition has come to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP).
YSP is one of my favourite local days out. Set in over 500 picturesque acres in West Bretton, the estate is steeped in fascinating history going back to Norman times. You can read more about that here.
It’s fun to set up with a picnic close enough to a sculpture to hear passing visitors, discussing what they think it means, how it was constructed or what it reminds them of. Someone else’s insight – another fresh viewpoint, can really challenge your ideas.
Two visits are never the same. Of course some of the outdoor sculptures alter over time because of their material, but the landscape around them is constantly changing, which in turn can influence your response.
The YSP setting is perfect for artists who explore the relationship between humans and nature, like Giuseppe Penone. His exhibition runs until April 2019. Below is his ‘Stricken Tree’, a bronze cast of a lightning-struck tree. I took the second photo only a few days after the other but how that gold leaf glowed in the sunny late afternoon light!
Many of the sculptures can be handled. Fortunately ‘Shape in the Clouds III’ by Peter Randall Page is one of them, as it would be hard not to!
The temperature difference on its marble surface is considerable when it’s warmed by the overhead sun, yet the shaded areas remain cool. The patterns are beautiful and reminiscent of the earth as seen from space.
Standing inside ‘Lady’s Bonnet’ by Ursula Von Rydingsvard (below), the sunlight streams through the resin but then a cloud passes and it feels quite different, protective and cave-like.
Shapes in outdoor art, frame views in a way you don’t get with a blank gallery wall, like the tall thin gap in ‘Sitting’, the lady hare by Sophie Ryder (my kids are fascinated by this one!), or the holes in the figures by Yorkshire’s most celebrated sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.
There’s a beautiful photo of Barbara Hepworth’s Family of Man (below) taken in the winter with bare trees behind on the YSP website. Snow sitting on top of some of the pieces made me think that some of the ‘family’ put on a hat for the weather!
On the day of the Wish Post opening though, the evening was balmy and my eldest daughter and I arrived early to enjoy the park before the event. Most of the day visitors had left and I’d never experienced it so peaceful and deserted. Squirrels were unbothered by our presence and we were delighted by the abundance of baby bunnies feeding on the lawns. The evening light streamed through the gnarly trees and the wooded area took on a fairytale aura. We were right in the mood for some midsummer magic!
Back at the visitor centre, the exhibition brings together the cast of Mister Finch’s enchanting storybook. It’s a tale of the forest animals who speak their wishes into a letter and post them into tiny toadstool letter boxes. They know that one special night a year, some will be lucky enough to have their wishes granted.
We follow the journey of the letters, in particular the wish of a sad little mouse called Poe. Badgers in smart navy uniforms collect the mail and take it to the sorting office where efficient thimble-tailed rats are working away. Meanwhile, in the forest the creatures are enjoying festivities on this very special night.
I won’t spoil it by revealing what Poe is wishing for and how the tale ends. You can find that out in the book.
Each of the seventy-five creatures in the exhibition, have been tenderly constructed by Mister Finch himself over the last two years. There is no team of workers for this self-taught artist. The imagination, craftsmanship and thoughtfulness of the display (look out for the toadstool legs!) is wonderful. To really appreciate the level of detail seen in his choice and placement of every stitch or repurposed oddment, you really must see for yourself.
Here’s the Ring-a-Dings hedgehogs, who keep the time and may play you a tune.
This is Mr Birdwhistle Fox followed by the bunnies in their fancy coats cut from a wall tapestry Mister Finch found in a second hand shop. I wonder who the original stitcher was? They could have had no idea where their handiwork was destined to end up!
My favourite characters were the mice (I was really rooting for Poe) and this toadstool hare with it’s little brass bells who seemed to be looking directly at me. Sadly I couldn’t afford an original to take home but I did buy a little hare pin badge for a friend and tote bag for myself. Most of all, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to meet the delightful Mister Finch, have my book signed and personally express how much I was enjoying the exhibition.
The Wish Post runs until 23rd September 2018. Do go and visit if you can. You can also find plenty more photos and videos and follow Mister Finch’s work on his Facebook Page.