Public Art Research Archive, Sheffield Hallam University

David Nash
'The Eye of the Needle' and 'Sweeping Birches' 1992
River Don
Charred Oak/Birch Trees

Five Weirs Walk along the Don River, in between Rotherham and Sheffield.

The oak 'needle' stands in a parting of a grove of growing birches. Formally unveiled May 19th 1992. Eventually the young trees will grow upright, but at present they are being trained to lean away on either side of the needle on the river bank. On the Five Weirs side of the river Nash placed a found object, a 10 ton steel plug, as a viewing platform.

Sheffield Development Corporation and Sheffield City Council Arts Department with funding from the Henry Moore Foundation. The piece came out of a residency, and other work made at the time was shown at the Mappin Art Gallery. Nash has visited the piece once a year to monitor its progress.
[November 2000: It is not clear whether this has happened more recently.]

The piece is developmental as it is made of organic material. Already the birches have grown more visible and it is possible to detect a widening in the split of the needle's eye. The black charred 'needle' (before siting 30 ft. high) provides an intentional contrast with the white of the silver birches. From a distance, the needle can be mistaken for a factory chimney.

Excerpts from Artist's Statement:
".... the juxtapositions between green, treeland landscapes and the declining industrial areas which Sheffield presents."
Nash focuses on bringing together "...the inside element of cutting down wood which has no further life in its planted form; and the outside element of planting to achieve a sculpture which grows in its environment."
(Sheffield City Council leaflet 1992)

On a recent visit (November 2000) it was clear that little work has been to maintain and develop 'Sweeping Birches' for some time. The trees have not been trained in recent years and have also been invaded by secondary birch growth and other naturally seeded plants. It is touch and go as to whether this part of Nash's work can still be said to exist. Urgent work is needed to rescue this piece.
'Eye of the Needle' in contrast appears to be in good condition. The only change to the piece is that surrounding vegetation has grown up around it, so that it no longer appears isolated on the skyline. The needle no longer appears to be widening.

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Last updated September 5, 2006