For a man who was born in the remote Swiss village of Sent, Not Vital is a seriously global sculptor. The nomadic artist has ongoing projects as far-flung as Rio de Janeiro, Bataan, Niger – and now Wakefield.
Until January next year, Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the Bretton Hall Estate will display an extensive range of Vital's work. Each nook of the 18th century grounds has been occupied by a visionary Vital piece, including Let 100 Flowers Bloom (2008), which is scattered across the park's lengthy terrace. This complex installation comprises a century of elegant lotus buds on 3m-long stems, rendered in stainless steel.
Vital's smaller works are equally as eye-catching. Down in the Underground Gallery, visitors stumble upon Snowball (1999), a delicate glass globe encasing what appears to be a hand-formed ball of snow, evocative of Vital's wintry birthplace. Here, paintings and more fragile works are sensibly shielded from the Yorkshire elements.
Back in the open air of the parkland, Big Tongue (1996–97) nestles near the mouth of Bothy Gardens, and HEADS (2014) stand tall against the dark green of a historic yew hedge. Despite their contemporary shine, YSP director of programme Clare Lilley notes that 'the works bear resemblance to 18th century follies' – it feels like they could have lived in the grounds for years.
Their natural appearance belies their tricky installation. 'Siting an almost 8m-high tongue in a late snow blizzard wasn’t the easiest,' confirms Lilley. 'And the huge ceramic HEADS came from Jingdezhen in the south of China on a very slow boat. They nearly missed the party.'
Despite the diverse and eclectic range of sculptures, the display is effortlessly cohesive. 'It’s not easy to imagine an exhibition when you’ve only ever seen its components in different parts of the world, but this far exceeds my expectations,' she concludes. Each sculpture poetically reflects the place it was created, but all bear Vital's signature, unifying touch.