sketchbook   sketchbook

Art Spaces

Sunday, 16th November 2003
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

NewmillerdamThe boathouse at Newmillerdam country park, immediately to the south east of Wakefield, was recently restored. It's open weekends and most bank holidays. The floor-level bay windows in the ground floor room give a sense that you're afloat. The upper room, which is approached up a flight of eight stone steps, looks out over the lake and also has a watery light.

It would be a good place for a small arts show and is available for hire (see link to Wakefield MDC website below).

City of Gold

As we drive back through Wakefield there's an extraordinary golden light on parts of the city. South of the river we're in shade and beyond the city there are big black clouds but, in between, the blocks of flats near the city centre are spotlighted in flats in townbrilliant golden light. The golden glow is in startling contrast to the dark, shaded buildings that frame the view. I've never seen those 1960s blocks of flats looking so good.

As we get nearer to Chantry Bridge the light catches the old brick mill, the upper floors of which serve as studio space for local artists. It's a building that I'd normally think 'what a shame that wasn't built in stone' but in this warm light the brickwork looks stunning: it glows. The building almost comes to life, like a gigantic lizard, tessellated with terra-cotta scales, sunning itself.

The cathedral spire looks good in any weather but it's divinely radiant in this light - like a scene from Pilgrim's Progress. Even the terraced houses along Westgate have been gilded with a sunburst reflecting from their windows.

A couple of friends from Wakefield have mentioned the afternoon's light since. One went to see if she'd left a light on, another assumed that work had resumed on some roadworks and that spotlights had been turned on outside.

Barbara Hepworth

willowsNear that redbrick Artsmill by the Calder there's a clump of weeping willows. At the moment there's controversy over plans for a gallery to house work by the Wakefield-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975). The Wakefield Express quotes one local historian as saying that the plans resemble a 'multi-story car park'.

Hepworth sculptureI haven't seen the plans - since a scary run-in with Wakefield's planning machine I've avoided getting involved in anything to do with planning - but I understand that the plans call for the removal of the willows. If that's so, it's a shame: I feel that Hepworth's sculptures look so comfortable and relaxed in her garden at St Ives, in an organic setting.

sculpture in townYou've only to look at her pieces in the square by the multi-story car park in town to realise how sad and lost they look when stuck in hard urban setting. It's not surprising that this was the square that they chose to film a violent death (one of the characters jumps off the multi-story car park) in the television detective series Frost.

I'm sure the new design will prove popular, especially if there's a good café included, but, if I was designing it, I'd try and work those willows into the design. They'd be the perfect backdrop to the sculpture. I'm not at all fond of sculpture in wild places but I think the garden setting, which you can see in the St Ives link below, works well.

Waterfront GalleryUpdate, 1/12/03: I've just seen this architect's visual of the Waterfront Gallery, in Infusion, the Wakefield MDC cultural services newsletter, and, as far as I can make out, they're keeping the trees. I see why a multi-story car park should have come to mind but, all credit to David Chipperfield Architects, the design is far less intimidating than the Royal Armouries, which bristles with broadswords and brutality in a similar waterfront situation in Leeds. next page

Related Links

Newmillerdam Country Park

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives.

David Chipperfield Architects - appropriately, at the time of adding this link, 'this site is currently under construction'. I like that.

Richard Bell

sketchbook   sketchbook