A Symbol of Love

Strength and resilience rise to the fore through the first major UK exhibition of artist Robert Indiana, currently on show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park 

Robert Indiana, LOVE (Red Blue Green), 1966–1998, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Arriving at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on a cloudless morning in March, it was strange to think that just days ago one of the worst storms in years had wreaked havoc here. The 500-acre park had lost three of its ancient trees; the grounds were left muddy and the branches bare. But, in a moment of respite, there was a refreshing sense of hope and resilience in the air, as well as the welcomed scent of spring exuded through the dozens daffodils sprouting from the earth.

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, the park has been at the epicentre of contemporary sculpture for the past four decades. There are currently more than 80 works from major sculptors peppered amongst its grounds including Phyllida Barlow, Ai Weiwei, Joan Miró, Damien Hirst and Barbara Hepworth, with site-specific works from Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and James Turrell. It’s a treasure trove for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and dog walkers alike; there’s something for everyone whether it’s a leisurely stroll, a picnic, a gawk at the 18th-century Bretton Hall estate, or to revel in the work of some of the world’s best-known sculptors. 

Robert Indiana, Exploding Numbers, 1964-66, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

There’s much to explore, not least in the park’s ongoing exhibition programme located in six indoor galleries and the outdoors. For 2022, the YSP opens the doors to the first major UK exhibition of American artist Robert Indiana, spanning 60 years of his magnanimous sculpting career with many works previously unseen. Additionally, there’s a selection of drawings by sculptor and land artist David Nash presented in The Weston Gallery and Bothy Gallery, while Yukihiro Akama’s miniature wooden houses are shown in the YSP Centre. A common denominator throughout it all is a profound feeling of love and strength, addressed through the key topics of the major exhibitions – that being politics and sustainability. This is oozed through the works entirely but most prominently at the entrance of the site, Indiana’s iconic Love (Red Blue Green) (1966-1998), stands proudly as if it were watching over us all, reminding us of one of the most universally felt emotions.

Clare Lilley, who’s recently been appointed the new director of YSP, spoke of the “incredible coincidence” of making this exhibition at this point in time. The moment she saw Love being installed at the park, for instance, she sobbed. The invasion of Ukraine had just been announced and – holding back her tears greatly – she remarks how “love is symbolic for the current world”. Love couldn’t be more symbolic or more pertinent, despite the fact that it was crafted decades ago. 

Robert Indiana, LOVE WALL, 1966-2006, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

The tone was set for the remainder of the day as Clare took us on a guided tour of the park, first beginning with Indiana’s outdoor structures allude to his fascination with the graphic, numerical form. “Numbers fill my life,” he stated, penned in the release. “They fill my life even more than love. We are immersed in numbers from the moment we’re born.” Heading indoors, we gazed at the surprisingly mixed-media works; brass pieces constructed to look like wood, earlier collage forms, or phallic columns addressing the impact of the AIDS crisis to name a few. Tracing six decades through 56 sculptures, we saw the artist’s practice in full swing as he depicted his own version of the American Dream – a darker one at that. Forging a connection between politics, society and art, Indiana’s momentous career has poked hard at the world for its discrimination of LGBTQIA+ communities and racism. It’s a hopeful reminder of love and unity. 

The day continued as we strolled through the luscious grounds, inhaling the fresh air and either avoiding or ingesting the Marmite pieces from Hirst in the nearby distance. David Nash was our next stop – a painterly depiction of our relationship with nature perceived through an evolving study of trees – before heading to witness James Turril’s Deer Shelter Skyspace, a moment of calm as we peaked through the cut out roof of an 18th-century Grade II Listed building (an old deer shelter). Swapping the foot for a sturdy Land-rover, the final steps of the day were observed through the window as the helpful guide navigated us through the on-site sculptures and artworks. A personal favourite being the biodegradable pavilion created by Studio Morison, where timber, thatch and compacted earth has been constructed to allow visitors in for a moment of peace and quiet. Eventually, the piece will fall in on itself and decompose. It’s a stark comment on the fragility of nature, echoed by the fallen trees and bent branches from the storm.

YSP is undeniably a tranquil setting, and the final moments of the day were with concluded with calm, wind-hit faces and an unanimous feeling of contentment. Consumed by nature-rich parklands and the evocative artworks on display, I couldn’t think of a more apt location for discussing themes of love, resilience and our relationship with the planet – a greater reflection of what’s happening in the world right now.


Robert Indiana: Sculpture 1958-2018 is on show at YSP’s Underground Gallery and Open Air between 12 March 2022-8 January 2023

Robert Indiana, American Dream # 5 (The Golden Five), 1980, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, AMOR (Red Yellow), 1998-2006, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, Ash, 1985, cast 2017, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, Love Is God, 1964, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Robert Indiana, Monarchy, 1969, installation view at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2022. Photo: © Jonty Wilde, courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Artwork: © 2022 Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

Bhangra Lexicon

Hardeep Sahota, dancer and World Bhangra Day founder, catalogues over 300 gestures from the traditional art form of Bhangra

Hardeep Sahota, Bhangra Lexicon. Lehriya-Behke. Photo © Tim Smith

A traditional show of Bhangra, the dance of Punjab, consists of dynamic kicks, leaps and twists performed with the accompaniment of the dhol, a double-headed drum. It’s an energetic and celebratory dance that dates back to the 70s, and was mostly performed by Punjab farming communities during the spring harvest festival of Vaisakhi – notably while farmers worked their chores. And since its arrival, Bhangra has become a widely established form of movement across the world, with names such as Hardeep Sahota working hard to preserve its yielding history. 

Hardeep, a Huddersfield-based dancer and founder of World Bhangra Day, was first introduced to dance during his younger years. An ardent practitioner, he’d spend his childhood days creating routines to perform at his family’s parties. “I find dance to be an extremely powerful art form of expression, and intrinsically part of my heritage and identity,” he explains. “Dance can be an uplifting experience and within Indian culture it’s also deemed a sacred act of worship.” This inherent interest in the moving form has given way to a lengthy career in the industry, evident through the release of his own book, Bhangra: Mystics, Music and Migration – a publication that explores Bhangra’s origins from the Panjab in South Asia, through to its development in a modern British context. Hardeep is also an Affiliate Fellow at the University of Huddersfield, and is known for his research and work with the local community. And now, he’s launched the online exhibition titled Bhangra Lexicon, a visual exploration of 300 dance movements and gestures from Bhangra, currently on show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Hardeep Sahota, Bhangra Lexicon. Chloe AKA Spider, Breakdancing. Photo © Tim Smith

Hardeep’s interest in Bhangra sparked after visiting an orphanage in India. “We had raised some money to donate to those in need,” he says, “and during the ceremony there was a rooftop reception. There was an electrifying air of celebration on behalf of everyone involved. There was a dhol player playing with might and enthusiasm, and in and amongst all the happiness and emotions there was one gentleman who was throwing his hands in the air and dancing whilst chanting at the top of his voice: ‘Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru!’ (Wondrous Lord). This may have been regarded as highly unorthodox but it epitomised the meaning of Nihaal (intoxicated in a heavenly ethereal bliss).”

The gentleman kept repeating “Waheguru” in what appeared to be a trance-like state, filled with joy and contentment. It was a moment that proved hard to resist, and instantaneously Hardeep found himself joining in with the zest of the celebration. “Bhangra is a dance that personifies the meaning of ‘Chardikalla’, a Panjabi term for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism and joy,” he tells us. “Sikhs are ideally expected to be in this positive state of mind as a sign of their contentment with the will of God, even during times of adversity.”

Hardeep Sahota, Bhangra Lexicon. Pumbiri. Photo © Tim Smith

After which, Hardeep went on to work heavily in the field of Bhangra, resultantly founding World Bhangra Day and continuing to celebrate its longstanding tradition. What interests him the most about this form of dance, to a somewhat lack of surprise, is the sound of the dhol drum – the main instrument used for the dance and one that effortlessly pairs deep vibrations with the movements of the body. “This energy is such an amazing experience for those who take part to simply behold,” he notes, pointing how this vigour is what drove him to turn the dance into a cohesive exhibition and publication. “As a teacher, I understand that academic work and ideas can be channelled through art to convey complex ideas. When I decided to publish my book, I made sure that anyone of any age would be able to access the ideas within, be it through the written word or images and ephemera.”

The exhibition, specifically, showcases a range of 300 different movements of Bhangra, conceived off the back of wanting to build a definitive repertoire of the traditional dance. In conjunction with the jives of the dancers is the addition of hand-held colourful lighting, employed in near darkness and captured by Tim Smith – a British photographer who’s snapped the rapid display in locations around Yorkshire, including the exhibition’s host, Yorkshire Sculpture Park. 

Hardeep Sahota, Bhangra Lexicon. Jugni. Photo © Tim Smith

While working on this profound, calligraphic body of work, Hardeep began with research into the lineage of dhol players – “deemed to be masters of the art form of drumming,” he says – before meeting both drummers and dancers alike. He also interviewed academics on the topic of different histories and sub-genres found within Bhangra, navigating the geographic and regional differences of the names given to some of the moves. What’s more is that Hardeep wanted to instil a chronological order throughout the exhibition to show how some of the Bhangra moves have evolved over time; some of which have been learned from one elderly dancer, and thus nearing the edge of being lost. Hardeep hopes that this extensive body of work will help with its preservation.

“Bhangra is becoming increasingly popular through events such as World Bhangra Day, and has developed a great deal both musically and through university dance competitions,” Hardeep concludes. “Its future is part of the migration stories of those that take it to distant shores and teach it to future generations as part of their cultural heritage. Those practitioners, like myself, now need to put in the effort to bring Bhangra to new audiences and help preserve this beautiful art form.”

Head here to view the exhibition and the accompanying film by Danarjan Singh can be watched below.

Hardeep Sahota, Bhangra Lexicon. Rebecca Kane, Traditional Irish Dancing – Front Clicks. Photo © Tim Smith
Hardeep Sahota, Bhangra Lexicon. Rashmi Sudhir, Mohiniattam – South Indian classical dance style. Photo © Tim Smith
Hardeep Sahota, Bhangra Lexicon. Tyrone John: Carnival. Photo © Tim Smith

The Garden of Good and Evil

Thomas Bolger visits the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to witness Alfredo Jaar’s permanent installation

“It is possible for prison walls
To disappear,
For the cell to become a distant land
Without frontiers”

– Mahmoud Darwish

A stainless-steel cell sits half submerged in a lake, water lapping at its sides. It is one of ten that stand dotted about the surrounding woodland, cold to the touch and as silent as the trees. They are both bluntly conspicuous and strangely at home in the natural setting, empty monuments hiding in the undergrowth. Alfredo Jaar – the acclaimed Chilean “architect making art” – is the man responsible for these structures, which have now found a permanent home at the vast Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Principally referencing CIA ‘black sites’, secret detention facilities such as Salt Pit in Guantanamo Bay or Code Black in Afghanistan, the cells conjure up a myriad of meanings that traverse incarceration, authority, exile and – inescapably because of the aquatic staging – the ongoing refugee crisis. Their one-metre square bases are directly inspired by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, someone who was routinely imprisoned and politically exiled for speaking truth to power. In 2001 he wrote: “I love the particles of sky that slip through the skylight – a metre of light where horses race.”

The long-standing director of the Park, Clare Lilley, accompanies me to see Jaar’s work, titled The Garden of Good and Evil. Undeterred by the drizzle and bluster that February has to offer, we ramble in our wellies past the Park’s temporary sculptures that sprout up out of its 500-acres. Privately owned for a thousand years, the surrounding area can’t help but be defined by its industrial past, old coal pits closed down by Thatcher visible from vantage points. Passing towering work from Damien Hirst, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore (all born nearby), I ask, how does seeing art in the elements change the viewer’s experience? Lilley throws her hands happily up to the slanted rain: “It’s this! It’s the entire sensory nature of it, the walking and the wind and the mud. You’ll see things in a certain condition and come back an hour later to see it in a different way because of how the light falls. That constant change is incredibly revitalising. I’ve been coming here for twenty-seven years and I’m still noticing things I’ve never seen before.”    

The Garden continues Jaar’s longstanding “balance between information and poetry” and commitment to art as political activism, with previous award-winning work examining environmental pollution in Koko, Nigeria, the Rwandan Genocide and perilous gold mining in Serra Pelada, Brazil. Having been born in Santiago in 1956 but lived in New York for the majority of his life, Jaar has always been preoccupied with the geographic imbalance of power, best exemplified through his 1990 piece Geography=War (which simply showed proportionately accurate maps of the world and therefore a much smaller North America) or This Is Not America (A Logo for America) (a flashing billboard saying exactly that, overlooking Times Square). The first time Lilley met Jaar was at Kings Cross station and all he carried was a coat and a newspaper. She remarked that he travelled light – he held up the paper and replied, “this is extremely heavy.” 

When we reach the first scattering of cells, time’s hand has already introduced variety to their colouring, rust matching fallen leaves while some better retain their polished lustre. They are ominous and brooding among the oak, ash and hazel. First unveiled in the open air on the United Nations International Day of Peace in 2019, The Garden not only engages with overt American secrets, but with one of its most celebrated aesthetic movements – minimalism. Created in the USA during the 1960s, Jaar plays with the contradiction (or necessity) that out of one of the most radical and violent decades came an artistic practice that nullified and simplified, created an absence of detail. Lilley notes that “He’s definitely playing with obfuscation and simplicity. Just before we opened, The Guardian did a huge exposé on black sites. These outrageous events come up on news cycles and then just disappear, people are being waterboarded right now, but the agenda moves on. We crave simplicity, sometimes at the expense of reality, and this work is an extraordinary rendition of the time we’re living in. It’s a chilling form of poetry. There is also a note of hope though, which is such an important part of Alfredo’s work. He often quotes Gramsci – “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Optimism has to be our strategy for the future, because without it, we don’t take ownership…In the spring, all of this will be surrounded by bluebells, it will be the first time we see it like that.”

Afterwards, we loop round part of the Park’s circumference, stopping to soak up Ai Weiwei’s arresting Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads (reinterpretation of 12 bronze animal heads), Saad Qureshi’s Something About Paradise (quasi-religious mindscapes housed in the Parks 18th Century chapel) and the deeply moving Deer Shelter Skyspace by James Turrell. Turrell transforms the Grade II Listed deer shelter into one for humans, its hushed stone walls feeling closer to an Egyptian tomb. Entering a large square chamber, you are greeted by an aperture cut into the roof, the moving Yorkshire sky flooding the room with light. Drying off inside and watching the clouds drift by almost feels like therapy.

Alfredo Jaar, Magician, 1979. Courtesy of the artist, New York and Galleria Lia Rumma, Milano

Jaar was painfully shy as a boy and his concerned father sought advice from a psychiatrist, who recommended he learn magic tricks to build confidence. He trained as a magician before architecture, which may explain his skill in suspense, mystery and the all-important reveal. The small arena between the artist and his audience, the suspension of disbelief. The Garden of Good and Evil works as a perverse kind of magic trick, revealing the deeply uncomfortable truth of state-approved torture and murder that the international community actively chooses to ignore. The idyllic setting only adds to the dramatic sleight of hand, and the work will continue to shift and blur with each passing year as it becomes slowly assimilated into the woodland. When I say goodbye to Lilley I promise to visit again in the summer, so that I may see the work in a completely new light.    

Photography Jonty Wilde