The British artist David Nash (*1945) is a faithful friend of Schönthal. At home in North Wales, he felt a direct empathy with the weather, the breadth of the landscape and the animal life in the Jura Mountains. His memorable exhibition in the year 2000 marked the opening of the Monastery Church to the public for the first time. His four wooden sculptures also give a distinctive character to the Sculpture Park: the Twisted Oak rests in the hollow of the valley; the large Threshold Column greets visitors at the beginning of the pathway whose 46 Charred Steps lead steeply up to the top of the Schönthalköpfli where, like guards, the Two Charred Columns denote the periphery of the woods.
Nash’s international fames is based on his work in wood – preferably felled by a storm or by old age – using a chainsaw and axe and a naked flame to char the surfaces of his sculptures. His praxis with pen and paper is more intimate, but just as characteristic of Nash’s oeuvre. In addition to autonomous drawings after nature, since 1994 the artist has been developing pictogram-like abbreviations of his sculptures which trace, in a large-scale “family tree” of his works, the development of one motif into another over the years. The Ash Dome, for example, has preoccupied him since 1977: ash trees planted at a secret location in the natural reserve of Snowdonia, trained to grow in the shape of a canopy and cared for also as inspiration for other sculptures. Nash is animated by his work; he lives what he does.
In June of this year David Nash again stayed for a while in Schönthal, this time in order to complete his drawn inventory of his own works. This process is akin to internal sculpture: drawn from nature, rendered abstract, cut in stencils and finally transferred to paper in charcoal and earth pigments. In a studio installed in a chapel in Blaenau Ffestiniog he produces his Stencil Prints in this manner and in small editions, each print differing slightly from the next. For Nash, synthetic colours would be just as inconceivable as leaving the cutting of the stencils and the sprinkling of the pigment powders to an assistant.
Having presented them in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in 2012, the artist has now made the works chosen for the Abbot’s Room available for sale to the Schönthal Monastery and is contributing in this way to the long-term preservation of the heritage buildings and the landscape. Anyone tempted to purchase one will acquire not just a valid work by a great sculptor of our time, but also a token of a deep affinity with Schönthal.