Having finished shaping my three large stones with the pneumatic chisel, I take them from the studio back to the cellar of my home, where I plan to spend many hours sanding them down to a smooth finish. I stand them upright on a desk to consider their composition, shuffling them left and right, forward and backward slightly, until I am happy with the way they interact with one another. I walk to the other side of the room to pick up my camera when I hear the almighty crash behind me.
I know immediately what has happened and my head is in my hands before I turn to look. It’s hard to describe that moment, those hot seconds of bubbling panic, anger, despair and desolation. My wife runs in to the room, eyes wide with worry, and hugs me. We look up to see everything on the floor, around twenty fragments of marble, crumbs and dust.
I don’t know how they fell. My best guess is that my last nudge of the largest stone pushed it onto a slightly uneven surface of the old desk, and a breeze from a broken window toppled it, forward on to the other two stones, like dominos. Shattered.
We need to leave in five minutes for drinks with friends in town. We’ve cancelled the date twice before and can’t back out again, so I leave the mess on the floor and walk out. I am not good company. I tell our friends what has happened and their moral support, sympathy and suggestions do nothing but twist my stomach. I see no other option than withdrawing from the exhibition. Three words cloud my mind all night; what a waste. I am embarrassed and I drink too much wine.
Home around midnight, I return to the cellar to confront with problem with dutch courage, and pick up the pieces. As I stack the fragments against the larger cracked stones, something happens. The varying size of the shards seems to add a sense of scale, and the multiple layers create intimate, shadowy spaces, and I start to smile.
As I near the end of the shaping process for this sculpture, I decide I should have time to create two more stones to accompany it.
There are still many, many hours of sanding and smoothing to do, but I really like the idea of having multiple parts to the sculpture; I have tried this once before and really want to play with it some more. The relationship of separate forms to one another creates a great dynamic in the work, and the position of one sheet in front of another can really help to explore the intrinsic qualities of light or whiteness that the stones posses.
I move the large stone aside, ready for intervals of sanding, and start on two smaller sheets of stone. I am not yet exactly sure how I will compose the sculpture, but I am careful to orientate the stones so that the veining all runs in the same direction..
I am working on this sculpture in Pietrasanta, Italy. I’m renting a space in a very historical, shared workshop, surrounded by a great mix of international artists. It’s a beautiful and inspiring place, but I can’t help but feel like a bit of an imposter.. working very fast and spontaneously while others around me use very traditional techniques to make exquisite figurative statues!
I start with a thin, tapering sheet of marble and loosely sketch on to it outlines of the clouds I see rolling down from the foothills of the Apuan Alps.
I roughly cut an outline and begin carving with a pneumatic chisel or ‘matello’. I allow a very high amount of air to flow through the matello, perhaps more than usual, allowing me to dig deep into the stone without much control. I worry people think I’m a bit of an amateur, making more noise than most, but I want the work to develop quite naturally so I am happy to relinquish control a little!
Someone asks me if I am scared that the edges will break, being so thin, and soon afterwards I do lose a corner by applying too much pressure. I roll with the punches and decide it would be wrong to sculpt clouds without a good dose of fear..
A thin sliver of stone rises in the form of a cloud against a summer sky. Although this sculpture can be called a cloud, the detailed contours and undulating surfaces conjure other images, just as we do in reality when we watch clouds rolling by; an elephant, a whale, the face of Bob Marley!
The Italian marble is orientated so that its grey linear veining travels diagonally downwards, becoming representational of sunrays bursting through the clouds. This consideration of light is emphasised by the thin delicacy at the edges of the sculpture, allowing the tips of the cloud to glow in sunlight; a silver lining.
On one hand this sculpture aims to be a semi-realistic representation, offering a simple delight in visual aesthetics and a celebration of nature, but it also hopes to ask questions of the viewer. The disparity between the solid, enduring concept of stone and the ephemeral, perpetual reformation of clouds perhaps resonates with the relationship of civilisation and society with the Earth we inhabit.