From a 500kg block of stone to 'The Seer'
It all began with a small hammer...
I walked among the blocks of stone, tapping them gently, listening for the ‘ring’ that would tell me the block was good, no cracks. That is the one I chose, in the back, marked CEL. I had in mind to carve a giant head. I had done some sketches, had an idea for something monumental, so this squarish, ringing block was ideal.
Lots of blocks of stone, lots of sculptors, all selected to take part in the week-long Australian Limestone Carving Symposium in Mt Gambier, SA.
I chose to use hand tools – axe, saw, hammer and chisels, rasps, a lot slower than using tools with an air compressor, but I wanted to take it slowly, feeling my way. I wanted to find the head within the stone. And as I worked, it gradually appeared, emerging from the boulder.
I decided to keep the sense of it emerging from the limestone, leaving some raw stone as part of the sculpture.
This is an interesting stone. It is coralline limestone, part of a 400 metre deep bed of ancient coral reef which underlies the southern coast of South Australia. As you carve you can come across fossilised shells, and parts of ancient sea creatures. What a privilege to touch something so ancient, to ‘listen’ to the stone, to work with it to bring out the image, the story within.
I carved an ammonite into the unmarked stone on the back face of the sculpture, incorporating a fossilised shell within the design.
The Symposium at an end, and the sculpture still a work in progress, it was time to transport it 1100 klms back to my outdoor studio at home in Bathurst NSW. A forklift, a truck, then all hands on deck to get it onto the special base, so I could complete the stone carving.
Ready to load . . .
...and unload at my studio....
I lived with the work for a while, watching it in different lights, walking around it, coffee in hand, letting it speak to me. The face, the eyes, the mouth, at that stage, featureless; I wanted to bring it to life.
Carving stone can be a strange experience. At times, I start with a very clear idea of what I want the finished work to be like; at other times, the work reveals itself under my chisel, and I come to a gradual understanding of what the sculpture is about. Thus came about ‘The Seer’.
The face is ambiguous – male? female? Are the eyes open? or closed? These are unseeing eyes looking to an unknown future, the future we in the present are creating for those who will come after us. What sort of world are we bequeathing them?
Time slows; aeons of time are speaking here.
'The Seer' - the finished sculpture.