Scouting out a specific location
Looking for a good depth of water to work in/good backdrop for aesthetics/good amount of close resource material
Laying foundation stones
Building up from the levelled off base surface
A small real-time fragment of the two and a half hour build time
Jagged forms coming together for an organised shape
Standing out from the shore
Still visible through the trees from the path
Professor David Cottrrell’s contribution to art has been significant. His provocative, forward thinking approach has been recognised through his talks at TED, the BBC and Tate, his work has been recognised and held in high priority.
The piece that initially grabbed my attention was his contribution to the CORE exhibition “Realty: London”. It stands as a commentary on the mass gentrification of London’s city centre, and the absurd rise in housing costs. To do this he priced up a square metre of the Thames river, describing it as a patch of land, categorising it in the same way a house is priced up in the region. Due to its “prime location” and the “views” that can be seen, the price of this patch of land was enormous. This disproportion between price and actual material gain is exactly Cottrrell’s intention. He placed this listing in a genuine real estate agents and placed a white picket fence around the “property” along with a sign to advertise the purchasing of it.
The political implications of the piece speak volumes above its initial perception. Although it does stand out along the skyline, this piece’s context is made up mostly of the background work involved in pricing it up and making it a legitimate entity; thus making the message speak most of the meaning by itself and its surroundings – commenting on the state of affairs in London – thus making completely following through with the piece’s intention.
Goldsworthy is a land artist whose work derives from the materials he finds at a location. He references sight specific context to relate his artwork to the history and geographical make-up of the area.
“Slate Arch” is located in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales which is in North Wales in the middle of the Snowdonia National Park. Slate was chosen as his material due to North Wales’ emphasis on slate mining. The brittle material is often used in building houses, particularly in slating roofs. This reference to architecture is also related to the arch shape. Goldsworthy describes arches as being “Very human” as they have to be purposefully constructed; they are not formed naturally. This human intervention into organising natural materials is iconic of Andy Goldsworthy’s art.
This location/sight specific work is something I hope to reflect in my own work; picking materials from the environment and rearranging them there.
Another common theme in his work is its subtle ephemeral nature; these pieces are designed to eventually fade away, crumble, disassemble or otherwise cease to exist as a sculpture. This aims to draw on the relationship between human and nature; we interact and try to arrange it but it eventually resets the equilibrium of our need to organise – often done by the sculpture falling apart and returning to its component parts.
“Dead Hazel Sticks Bent Over Stuck Into Bottom of Shallow Pond” interests me due to its inclusion of water and reflection adding as much value to the piece as the actual materials – the sticks – do. When the sticks are submerged, their reflection goes on to create an infinite shape from all angles. The idea of infinity summons the imagery of time in a visual way, again communicating man’s relationship with nature, making us feel like a blink in the lifetime of the natural world.
This piece was also about the process:
“waited for froth and mud to clear, had to go back into water several times to bend a stick that had sprung up, then had to wait all over again for water to clear, very calm, took a long time for froth to float away, overcast and humid.” – http://www.goldsworthy.cc.gla.ac.uk/image/?tid=1980_195
As Goldsworthy mentions, the sticks sprung up even during the construction of the piece. This violent reaction to Goldsworthy’s interaction is key to this piece’s power. It is quite volatile and undoes itself in definite ways to oppose any kind of disturbance to the natural order. This both references the notion of trying to perceive and display the concept of infinity, and the concept of trying to tame and order our world.
‘Shedboatshed’ earned Starling the Turner Prize for art in 2005. He described it as “…a physical manifestation of thought process”
After discovering the parts on the side of the Rhine, he assembled them into a boat. He sailed this boat, with help from the oar and powered further by his bike, downriver to Basle. Reaching a museum in Switzerland, he reassembled the boat into a grand shed piece. He described the movement of this piece as “mobile architecture”.
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.