Sunshine, scenery and surrealism at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Gail Bond writes

Sunglasses and T-shirts had certainly not made our list of essential items for an autumn day out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and yet as we roasted gently on the suntrap balcony restaurant, we must have wondered whether it really was October or whether the surrealism of Miró’s sculptures had swept us all away on a time-shift journey to summer.

Turning our cheeks and noses to the welcome sunshine, we enjoyed our unexpectedly alfresco lunch before somewhat reluctantly returning indoors to visit the Joan Miró exhibition. Kitchen stools painted in primary colours rubbed shoulders with eggs, blackened bronze statues sported a variety of head-scratchingly obscure protuberances, and colourful paintings gave us an insight into the dream-like world of this celebrated sculptor and artist.

Keen to take advantage of the blue sky and sunshine, we emerged from the exhibition gallery with heads still spinning from this immersion into surrealism. The rolling green hills and tranquil lake beckoned, whilst cows, sheep and geese blended perfectly with the carefully-positioned outdoor sculptures to become part of the artistic landscape.

Our walk took us via sculptures as diverse as trees made from wheelie bins and toilet pans, a giant rabbit made from chicken wire, and bronze hay bales arranged so authentically in a field that they could easily be mistaken for the real thing from afar. We learnt that old books make perfect homes for solitary bees, that the former 18th century landowners had a penchant for creating grand follies out of simple features such as a well, and that the functional yet aesthetic Seventy One Steps installation was designed to blend so seamlessly into the landscape that it will eventually disappear.

Although we split off into groups, we sporadically bumped into each other throughout the afternoon; even converging at one point near two bananas arranged artistically on the path that inspired us to express our own aesthetic critique of their fruity beauty, even debating whether the Fair Trade logo could be inspired by a Miró painting. Then, having decided that they had probably just recently fallen from someone’s rucksack and were unlikely to be of major artistic significance, we unceremoniously ate them.

With tired legs and heads full of swirling images of incredible sculptures, we made our way back to the main centre for welcome cups of tea. Conversations covered back-up systems, the advantages and disadvantages of being permanently contactable via smartphone, and the horrors of being our own IT department. Husbands and partners of translators found common ground on the topics of football and Bob Dylan whilst lamenting the constant requirement for washing up and other menial tasks to lighten the load of the busy translator.

As we pulled away from the car park, the first drops of rain fell. Expert weather forecasting by Charlotte, who had clearly pre-booked the perfect conditions for a fabulous day of culture, fresh air and unbeatable Yorkshire countryside.