Vitality and poise: a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Vitality and poise in Julian Opie's People 15 in Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Walking with poise – Julian Opie’s People 15

Vitality and poise are two key benefits I’ve had from learning the Alexander Technique.  I hadn’t expected this (though I’m sure my teachers did). I’d gone for greater mobility and relief from back pain.  Both duly arrived as my head, neck and back began to work together in a more integrated way. Now other rewards have started to come through. One is that I’m more self-possessed with a greater zest for life.

Expanding and breathing

I’m more aware of vitality and poise in the world at large too, and found both on a recent visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park .  Here monumental pieces – stone, bronze, iron, wood, even string – animated the landscape. Many were of the human figure or about movement, almost alive yet with an inner stillness. Despite their size I felt they could easily come to life and swap places after closing time.

Reclining Figure Arch Leg by Henry Moore
Reclining Figure Arch Leg by Henry Moore
Part of The Family of Man (1970) by Barbara Hepworth
The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth

I puzzled over what was different here from any other gallery.  Barbara Hepworth, born in nearby Wakefield, gave me some clues. She wrote of  sculpture as “something still and yet having movement, so very quiet and yet with a real vitality”.  But being outdoors was also important:

“I prefer my work to be shown outside. I think sculpture grows in the open light and with the movement of the sun its aspect is always changing; and with space and the sky above, it can expand and breathe.”

Playful vitality and mindful poise

Visitors too seemed more energetic, lively and engaged than in many indoor spaces. No tired ‘museum feet’ here.  Instead some had hiking poles and set off briskly round the lake trails. Family groups argued about the best routes. And round every sculpture people gathered in twos and threes. They discussed, chatted, wondered what it was all about or just enjoyed the cracking Yorkshire view.

Later I picked up two of the park leaflets.  One of them – 50 Ways to Play – suggested you “play with our art and nature to lift your spirits, enjoy your day and test all your senses”. The second listed Well-being events, including sessions called Still Looking and Room to Breathe.  These encouraged you to “think deeply, move mindfully and connect with nature” while engaging with art and with others. I discovered the park has an Art and Well-being Coordinator  who is herself an artist interested in walking and mindfulness.

Touch with Care, Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Expect the unexpected

All in all it was a satisfying place to visit. It encouraged visitors to discover a playful vitality in themselves, while moving through the sculptures and landscape with mindful poise.  My trip to Yorkshire was to see the sculptures. But like my experience with the Alexander Technique, what I found when I got there was deeper, more interesting and worth going back for.

Written during Term 8 of my Alexander Technique teacher training.

Network by Thomas J Price
Network by Thomas J Price
One and Other by Antony Gormley
One and Other by Antony Gormley
Riace Figures II, III, IV by Elisabeth Frink
Riace Figures II, III, IV by Elisabeth Frink
Wilsis by Jaume Plensa
Wilsis by Jaume Plensa
Large Two Forms by Henry Moore
Large Two Forms by Henry Moore
Promenade by Anthony Caro
Promenade by Anthony Caro
Cloaked Figure IX by Lynn Chadwick
Cloaked Figure IX by Lynn Chadwick
Seated Man II by Elisabeth Frink
Seated Man II by Elisabeth Frink