David Nash was born in Esher in 1945. He studied at Kingston College of Art 1964–64; Brighton College of Art 1964–67 and Chelsea School of Art 1969–70. On leaving Chelsea, Nash moved to Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales, purchasing a chapel to function as his studio and home. Nash currently lives and works in North Wales.
A selection of solo and group exhibitions include: The Shape of the Century: 100 Years of Sculpture in Britain, Salisbury Cathedral and Canary Wharf, London; The Shape of the Century: 100 Years of Sculpture in Britain, Salisbury Cathedral and Canary Wharf, London (1999); Here and Now, the Serpentine Gallery, London; Sculptors’ Drawings 1945-90, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Here and Now, at the Serpentine Gallery, London (1995); Elise Meyer Gallery, New York (1980); Galleria Cavallino, Venice, Italy; The Condition of Sculpture, at the Hayward Gallery, London (1975); British Art Now: An American Perspective, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York;
Nash was elected a Royal Academician in 1999.
Nash’s sculptures are made from unseasoned wood, which inherently alter after his intervention, cracking and twisting as they dry. In harnessing not only the element of air, but also fire and water, Nash changes the form and surface of his sculptures. Charred columns have recurred regularly in Nash’s work since 1983 when he produced his first charred works in Japan in the early eighties, in a process that was almost ritualistic. Charring changes the surface of wood to carbon, which, when treated with preservative and linseed oil, gives the sculptures a longer life in the open air. In 1999, Nash embarked on making some works in bronze, using earth and fire in the process. The resulting sculptures, with their patina resonant of smoke and ash, hold echoes of his works in wood. The charred surface is achieved by cladding the sculpture with light combustible materials, which were held in place by floorboards, then set alight. This is a vital and risky moment in the progress of the sculpture, as the flames have to be controlled by spraying water over the surface so that it burns evenly. Steam and smoke combine to dramatic effect and the charred sculpture is revealed as the boards fall away. David Nash says “Charring transforms the surface from a vegetable material to carbon. The sense of scale and time are strangely changed. The charred form feels compacted yet distanced in space.”