David Nash

Rostrum with Bonks


Not on display

David Nash born 1945
Object: 1740 × 630 × 630 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

Using a sculptural language partly derived from Brancusi, David Nash here presents a formal yet allusive representation of landscape through a particular use of natural materials. He has shaped the balls (or ‘bonks’) with an axe into rough approximations of spheres; one, of ash, has split when drying. The word bonk was a nickname given to a rock outcrop in a field, which the artist has described as ‘outcrop -- isolated place island-like, contained observed as places, points across the land’.

The bonks, placed on top of the pine rostrum, are -- from front to back -- made of ash, chestnut and birch wood.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

T03471 Rostrum with Bonks 1971

Pine, ash, horse chestnut and birch wood 68 1/4 × 24 3/4 × 24 3/4 (1740 × 630 × 630)
Not inscribed
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Exh: Briefly Cooked Apples, Queen's Hall, York, summer 1973, Oriel, Bangor 1973 (no catalogue); David Nash, Loosely Held Grain, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, October–November 1976 (not listed in catalogue)
Repr: David Nash, International Contemporary Sculpture Symposium, Shiga, Japan, 1984, p.83; Sixty Seasons, David Nash, exhibition catalogue, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, 1983, pp.12, 41

The pedestal and top of the sculpture are made of pine, and the balls are of ash, horse chestnut and birch, looking from the front (the lowest) to the back.

‘Rostrum’ was made at the artist's studio, a converted chapel at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd. It is one of the first of a group of sculptures which he made in the early 1970s in the shape of tables, and in the Tate Gallery's ‘Family Tree’ drawing (T03473) it is illustrated with several others. This drawing demonstrates that these followed from the very tall, Brancusi-like columns of cone shapes that he made in 1970 after leaving Chelsea School of Art. Two relevant interests persisted from these columns, the shaping of the individual parts and the way in which they were displayed. The balls, or ‘bonks’, on the rostrum were shaped with an axe into approximations of spheres, and show their different resistances to this by their rough shapes. One, of ash, has split when drying, like Nash's earlier ‘Nine Cracked Balls’ (1970). The three are displayed on different levels like the sections of the columns, on a pedestal of different wood, sawn and pegged by hand. The tapered shape of the base and its top are also like two sections of the columns, and this part was made out of pieces from one of the columns, and retains its shape. A quotation from the artist in the catalogue Sixty Seasons (op.cit., p.40) explains the origin of the word ‘Bonk’ in a nickname given by a neighbour to a rock outcrop in a field, and Nash further glossed this (letter of 15 June 1986) as ‘outcrop-isolated place island-like, contained observed as places, points across the land’.

The arrangement of the bonks on the steps was spoken of by the artist as ‘foreground, middle ground and background’ (conversation of 29 March 1982). In his next large sculpture ‘Table with Cubes’ (1972, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff) he originally intended that the cubes could be moved around by the spectator, although this was impractical.

A very small version of the top of the ‘Rostrum’ was carved at the same time as a study for it (collection of the artist).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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