I began sketching the Derwent church tower as my work seemed to be leading me to the spire and the imagery of it protruding through the surface of the water.
My research led me to artists like Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long who use materials found at sight specific locations to create their artworks. I wanted to use this as inspiration and use those rocks strewn around the clearing I saw at Derwent reservoir, to make my piece sight specific.
The fanned, traffic cone style, base of the top spire intrigued me architecturally. I attempted some abstract sketches of its form and the way it could be seen, referring to what few photos are available of the church. Early black and white photos are very heavy on contrast and the changing angles of the spire are very hard to make out, allowing for a great deal of abstract artistic impression. Most of the shapes simplified to triangles to form this square based pyramid design
I decided to use the rocks found at the clearing by the water at Derwent as the material for my piece. Reflecting on my research, I needed a way to make the piece stand out, and I decided a good way to achieve this would be to make it rise up from the ground just as the church had. Increasing the size of the sculpture with these small rocks is going to be achieved most easily by stacking lots of these flat rocks. This thinking brought me to cairns.
Cairns are man made stacks of rocks, deliberately made and often erected as landmarks. These days cairns are often found as disreputable location markers around hiking routes, especially around the countryside of the UK.
These markers are infamous for being unreliable as a marker for navigation, due to their nature of being easy to knock down, be moved, or otherwise interfered with by the general public. Their infamy is known well within the hiking community as they are often mislabeled on maps and have been made disreputable by the British Mountaineering Council. They believe that if you were to need to use these for navigation, it is insinuated that you should not be in that area as you are not properly trained in navigation and are putting yourself in danger.
The other use for cairns are to mark burial mounds. These kinds of cairns are often referred to as tumuli. I was fond of adopting this mentality in my homage to the 285 bodies exhumed from the church’s graveyard. These tumuli also apply to the location of Derwent in Derbyshire, as there are a few neolithic tumulus around the Derbyshire, Peak District region. Gib Hill Tumulus near Arbor Low is an example of one of these nearby Peak District mounds. It distinctly rises from the ground
I found there are two commonly used methods of arrangements for stones that my research has led me to:
- Balancing the shorter edges and propping them up against more stable rocks to form a flat, long surface along a side.
- Stacking the flat sides on top of one another to make a tightly packed and quite stable, brick-like layering effect.
I wanted to include both of these stacking methods in my piece and began to pull together a form. The square based pyramid I extracted from my abstract drawings seemed to be the most fitting and satisfying shape to aim for.
Returning to an initial idea I had, and backed up by my research into sculptures and public art involving water, I wanted my sculpture to be floated on the Derwent reservoir. This would pull together Simon Starling’s idea of “Mobile Architecture” and Goldsworthy’s reflections to create a whole, as seen in “Dead Hazel Sticks..” lending a sense of infinity and everlasting memory to the village of Derwent; for both the people who lived there and the bodies that were disturbed in the graveyard – in memorial.
Inspired by Richard Long’s attention to the specifics in his materials, and the value given to every detail of his pieces, I wanted to pay further homage to the 285 bodies exhumed from Derwent to Bamford, by using specifically 285 rocks from the location, and thus returning the pieces by floating them across the reservoir.