Saturday, 8 October 2011

Jaume Plensa

Jaume Plensa at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Stunning, majestic - this is what greets you at the entrance to the Park. It is only when you get nearer that you realise that the mesh/lattice work is letters. Plensa's interest in words and letters, how the twenty six letters of the alphabet allow us to express ourselves, is evident in all of the work exhibited.

Both figures are constructed in such a way as to allow people to go inside them and explore the letters from the inside, but also to see the world through the letters. We watched a school party of primary kids piling inside both figures and they had such fun!

They look equally good from a distance.

'Heart of Trees' consists of seven trees with figures attached at the base of each - the figures bear his likeness and are tattooed with the names of composers who have been important to him. The seven figures equate to the seven note scale - simple beginnings from which complex music can grow, thus complementing the other works which figure letters of the alphabet from which words and complex meaning grow.

This is about the power of musicians, writers and artists to illuminate and transform our lives.


'House of Knowledge'. Letters, words and their power.

Like the two figures at the entrance of the park this work invites us to go inside, to embrace, to communicate.

'Yorkshire Souls' . The three figures embrace themselves in a protective almost foetal position - the human condition?

'Nuria and Irma'  on the gallery roof, made out of steel mesh, replicates computer generated anatomies: you can see through the heads and they at the same time seem to contain the landscape within them.

And now we go inside the Underground Gallery

'Song of Songs, I and II'  to be found at Reception

'Sihouettes' above our heads as we enter the gallery, silhouetted figures with lines of poetry streaming from their heads, like thought-bubbles or dreams. Do our words stay in the air around us when we speak?


and a smaller version in a circle this time in the last room of the gallery


'Twenty nine palms' a steel curtain running all the way down the corridor. The metal letters form sections of some of his favourite pieces of writing in their original languages. We were encouraged to move our hands along the curtain and the music produced was very sweet.

'Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil', in the first room of the gallery, three figures attached on three of the walls

'Alabaster Heads'

and a closer look.

'In the Midst of Dreams'

We gasped on entering every single room

'Jerusalem'  a circle of huge brass gongs which we were encouraged to hit with a mallet.  At one point there were a few people hitting the gongs and the sound the gongs made was beautiful and would fill the room, each gong with its own individual sound and when more than one were hit they would interract with one another and the sound would change.

The sound filling the room is an integral part of the sculpture - are the gongs the sculpture, or the sound or both? - making the people in the room an integral part of the art.

Each gong is engraved with text from poetry about life, love and dreams.



  1. When one of the pits closed near Wigan (?) the people chose a Plensa head to place on the hillside as a memorial to the past and a hope for the future...Colin is desperate to go north to see it.