Spiegel: two views of a sculpture by Jaume Plensa

I shot a panorama of acclaimed Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s ‘Dream’ in September 2009… the elegant, elongated girl’s head peering over the trees at the old colliery site at Sutton Manor captured my imagination, much as it does with thousands of drivers passing along the M62 everyday.

Two years later a major exhibition of his work opened at the ever-wonderful Yorkshire Sculpture Park: visiting it had been on my agenda for some time but I was waiting for the right kind of weather, and an appropriate window in my diary. Finally, just a few weeks before the exhibition ended, a wintery Saturday in January brought the kind of clear, cold calm which I’d craved. It’s hard to ignore the beauty which the light in the afternoon imbues on a cold landscape on a day like this… temporarily lighting up the landscape before fading, leaving only a hint of its former self smeared on the horizon.Perfect for shooting man-made artworks in an outdoor environment.

Click or tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser

Pano ysp spiegel1 little planet

Click or tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser

Evidently many others had the same idea… the park at West Bretton was heaving when we arrived, with hundreds of people enjoying the rolling parkland and interior exhibitions. The Plensa exhibition itself was revelatory: a good selection of new and existing piece spread throughout the grounds, and filling the underground gallery. The underground pieces were superb, but popular and therefore packed… so it was a relief to break into the crisp air again and stretch our legs, walking around the spacious parkland. After several hours wandering through the grounds, basking in the setting sun and shooting some wonderful HDR sequences (see the gallery below), we made our way back over the pastures in the almost-inky darkness towards the car park.

One last thing caught my eye: drawn to this sculpture ‘Spiegel’, I had to wait until several other photographers moved away, in order to capture it looking suitably isolated and stark against the night. Even with parka, hat, gloves and multiple layers, standing around for long enough to shoot multiple exposures chilled me almost to the bone… and when I reviewed the shots on the camera I didn’t think they’d come out well. Luckily after returning to them with fresh eyes a couple of days later, I was able to refine and publish them, generally pleased with the results. I found the whole Plensa exhibition to be brilliant: seeing such a broad range of this work over time showcase the evolution of certain themes, styles and treatments, whilst also demonstrating his diversity and ambition. A real highlight for me and yet another excellent exhibition which took advantage of the stunning setting of the YSP. The curators consistently integrate the artwork symbiotically into the landscape, encouraging exploration and greater appreciation of scale, placement and construction. Excellent.

Incidentally I rarely use a stereographic or ‘little planet’ view for my panoramas, but like how in this instance it provides a very different perspective on this duo, with the dramatic lighting drawing the eye back to the sculptures themselves. It also hints at how, given something so bright in the foreground, our sight becomes even more constrained by the night surrounding us. Like a rabbit in headlights… passive and awestruck by beauty, power and the unknown.

 

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