Listening to Art

10.08: David Partridge, Strata and Craters

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume ten, number eight: Strata and Craters by David Partridge.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

In this issue we return to these two large naillies that we first heard in volume two number one. In that issue I quoted Wikipedia defining naillies as “works (sometimes very large) made of nails of varying sizes driven into plywood to different heights to form representational or abstract sculptures.” The story of how Mr. Partridge first began making naillies was given in the obituary Sandra Martin wrote for the Globe and Mail in December 2006, a few days after he had died aged 87.

In February and March of 1958, he was studying etching and engraving with William Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris when he had a creative breakthrough.

“I was fascinated by the irregular surfaces of deep-etched copper and zinc plates, irrespective of their purpose in printing. They became low-relief sculptures, which seemed to my ex-pilot’s eyes like aerial views of topography,” is the way he described the process later. One Saturday, he was gallery-hopping and came across an exhibition by Hungarian sculptor Zoltan Kemeny that he described as “bas-reliefs using all manner of metal bits and pieces, welded into an even more exciting aerial vision than the etched plates had provided.”

The eureka moment came in Ottawa (where the family was then living) the following winter when he came across a piece of plywood left over from a renovation. “Nails were at hand and a hammer! I descended to the basement and made my first nail sculpture.” The Naillies, as Mr. Partidge called them, were born. Wood, the most basic building material, became a platform for work that undulated with rhythm, light and texture. Hard-edged, tactile and sculptural, Naillies transcended their utilitarian origins and transformed nails and wood into something evocative and spiritual.

These are naillies, made of aluminum sheathing over plywood, with galvanized nails, each 671 cm wide by 366 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Strata and Craters by David Partridge, recorded at York University, in Toronto, on 17 February 2022.

Waveform of the field recording.

Those were Strata and Craters by David Partridge. I hope you enjoyed listening to them as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Martin, Sandra. “David Partridge, Painter and Sculptor, 1919–2006.” Globe and Mail, 16 December 2006.

Wikipedia, s.v. “David Partridge (artist),”

⸻, s.v. “Stanley William Hayter,”