Among The Dead Dunes Some Trees Glow Like The Sun…

 

Among Dead Dunes

Primordial Arboreal Gold

Washes Upon Baltic Geographies.

Millennial Boundaries Shift

With Faint Traces

Of Ancient Rites,

Through Weaving Light & Shadow

We Can Glow Like The Sun.


I was privileged to stay nearly three weeks in Lithuania spending much of the time exploring aspects of its heritage and landscapes.  The first week was spent at the wonderful Nida Art Colony, a creative center from which I explored the landscape of the Curonnian Spit.   Located on the Baltic coast, the spit is about 98 km long, the northern part of which is within Lithuania and the southern part in the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation.  I was drawn back to the Curonnian Spit, in part due to my interest in a Neolithic amber hoard, within which are a range of unusual figurative forms, that had been discovered in the 19th century at Juodkrantė.

However I very quickly became more interested in a series of tensions and entanglements that the forested nature of the landscape and the elemental nature of amber began to reveal.  The Curonnian Spit has a remarkable natural and cultural significance in part recognised with its inscription as a World Heritage Site in 2000 and its status as Kuršių Nerija National Park and as the Kurshskaya National Park of the Russian Federation.  So interesting tensions can be encountered between geo-morphological forms, climatic processes and the movements of other species which do not recognise political boundaries and the management of designated landscapes.

The landscape of the Curonnian Spit has been subject to major changes in character, sea level, deforestations, erosion and drifting of sands, and then reforestation and management. People have responded for millennia, and in part caused, some of these changes. For millennia they have encountered timeless gifts cast up from the sea. At times they reworked these gifts, and sent them back, perhaps in an attempt to make sense of or intervene in the world of change around them.

While there I worked on a piece through researching the history of the landscape and those who have dwelled within it for nearly 5000 years and by creating a series of small temporary installations in the landscape. This resulted in the development of a piece Among The Dead Dunes Some Trees Glow Like The Sun which was performed the following week in Vilnius.  The 12 minute performance explored the ongoing inter-relationships between people and landscape, and invited us to re-imagine the way we interact in the future.   Rather than try to reproduce that performance here I show some of the elements which I responded too.

Monuments to the Future

Flipped

Stonehenge, imagine being there, about 5000 years ago, when people first started building the earthwork enclosure.  If you could linger, perhaps five hundred years later, you may have witnessed the first stone circle being erected.  If you were able to revisit in another two hundred years time, you could have helped remodel the monument and created the unique arrangement of hanging stones which are celebrated to this day.

Earth Avenue

Yet, it is easy to focus on the construction, physical representations of a will to transform, and overlook the long moments of reality when monuments were actively used. Monumental statements (fetishistic moments of monumentality) sit comfortably with contemporary concerns for master plans and iconic buildings : architect-planner-deity.    Perhaps monuments such as Stonehenge, dangerously legitimise the short term political gestures (remember the difficult birth of the Millennium Dome !), grand projects of great people, and as such belittle the everyday, annual or generational uses of places we value?

Mounds

So it is with interest  I have watched over the past few years the emergence of a new complex of stones at Crawick : which if witnessed by the monument obsessed archaeologist of the future could readily, mirroring contemporary archaeo-parlance, be described as a ‘monumental landscape’ but in the absence of overt function be easily classed as a ‘ceremonial landscape’ or ‘ritual landscape’.  Yet Crawick is of its time, as post-industrial imagineering, an overt expression of regeneration, a cosmological dream beyond the short half-life of industrial decay.

Industrial Shadow

A solution to the problem of the blasted legacies of open cast coal extraction.

Terraformed

Emergent

New Mound

Imagine

So again, like Stonehenge, we are encouraged to focus on the monumentality of the project, the grand vision of the architect god.  Yet it may represent a moment in time which is worth studying, as a contemporary archaeology, as an unfolding of possible futures.  Crawick landforming (phase 1) completed 2015, how will decades and centuries of humanity respond to this new space ?

Wandering

Our opportunity is to engage in the moments between monumentality : phase 1 completed 2015 and Crawick landforming (phase 2) due to be commenced in 2215 !  What potentials lie in new birthed spaces, what opportunities to explore and express in the longer flow of time ?

So perhaps at generational monuments like Stonehenge, what sang through the ages, was the joy of the use of the space, dance and music, life and death transforming to place.

Perhaps such monumental places should be other worldly, liminal zones.  Places where we can encounter a pantheon of archetypes, explore the boundaries of humanity and through activities (perhaps challenging our definitions of art, culture and heritage) find pathways to revitalise earth from disturbed ground.

Contemplation

Sound Around

Flight

Ascent Sky Epiphany

Contact

In the line

I found my ... on Silbury Hill

Undetected

Direct

Form

Poised

Motion

Extend

Transitions

Journeys

Gift

Believe

 

Extended

Place is made, not by those who assert their will upon space,

Released

but by the people who dwell there.

—————————————————————————- —————————–

Following an encounter with another Land Formation by Charles Jencks, I learned about the plans for Crawick and visited in May 2014 when ‘land-forming’ works were underway.  A subsequent visit was undertaken in June 2014 when we were kindly allowed in the site to see the work in progress.  The next encounter with Crawick was when it was launched in June 2015.  The opening weekend was alive with the wonderful performance by Alex Rigg and Oceanallover which forms the basis of the peopled images above : and the only time when the monument made sense !

A further visit was undertaken in February 2016 with Kenny Brophy and Public Humanities students from University of Glasgow during which we had a heated debate about the cosmological frame of reference of the monument forms.  A parallel perspective on this contemporary cosmological space was produced by the Urban Prehistorian.

Collectively these visits, revealed the obvious, it is not the monument that matters or who conceived of it or who built it (sorry !), rather it is how it is used and by who and for how long – and that transcends the meaning assigned by the architect.  Thus the stage has been created and the meaning will be writ in the long term by those who perform upon it and dwell with it.

I wonder how the monument might change in use with Crawick landforming (phase 2), provisionally due to be commenced in 2215… … !

 

 

Patarei – darkness and light

Patarei  1

From outside,

summer sun graffiti regeneration,

walls white washed realities,

gives sense of warmth and light.

Brief sun glimpses,

trapped in small world exercise yards,

never escape glare of guards.

So try hiding in the warren of corridors

and mouldering rooms.

So try finding the darkness pierced by light.

Patarei Window Light

Fallen signs of medication and disease.

Treatment of deteriorating conditions.

Patarei ward

Traces of nameless and named remained.

Curios,

cabinets,

tidied and arranged

Rooms rummaged,

staged and reworked,

towards artful forgetting

of impositions from above.

Were their ever moments of humour and love?

We linger on,

traces of presences.

Patarei Sight and Sound

We shudder at,

spaces of absence.

Patarei Shadow and Light

We are poised,

semi-ruinous,

Patarei darkness

threatened by the realities of

forgetting

and

decay. 

——————————————————————————

Patarei was one of the most disorienting and disturbing heritage sites I had visited.  Patarei operated as a prison till 2002 and is described ‘as the most notorious prison in Estonia.’  It was recently shortlist nominated as one of the most threatened heritage sites in Europe and as such I thought this post may be of interest in the context of the Europa Nostra nomination by The Estonian Heritage Society.  The images were taken in August 2011, and I am not sure what state it is currently in, but yet to this day, when I think of the visit to Patarei, it still makes me shudder.  It was not always clear what had been left by prisoners, and to what extent it represented their experiences, or where later interventions of art or looting had modified the rooms and corridors.

I remember being struck by learning that Patarei (in 2011) catered for stag and hen parties (providing drink, food and drink) : with the unwitting bride or groom having to spend some time in a cell during the evening.  A form of entertainment which I was uncomfortable with : yet it was an attempt to ‘generate revenue’, to find a reuse for a heritage site.  Like many heritage sites it faces the challenges of finding new uses but in the current economic climate probably will not find sufficient core funding to keep running without some other revenues.  Finding reuse is perhaps even more challenging with a site which could be described as relating to ‘dark-heritage’.  Difficult and painful places, which we must remember, and through which have to reconcile tensions from the past.

There is a deeper story to Patarei, having been built as a military fortress at the instruction of Russian Czar Nicholas I from 1829 to 1840.  The fortress was then converted into a prison, between 1920 and 2005, and became a powerful symbol of national resistance in Estonia to both the communist and Nazi regimes.

Information on Patarei which strikingly sums up the aspirations for historical transformation and regeneration as:

‘This unique example of finest military engineering and architecture of early 19th century has finally, in the 21st century, changed from a longtime symbol of repressions and evil to a favourite hangout for the residents of the nation’s capital and visitors alike, a multifunctional place to spend one’s leisure time and have fun.’

A real challenge in these times perhaps, but I hope the site is not lost through further decay and neglect. Patarei is a remarkable part of the heritage of Estonia, and importantly it contributes to, and resonates in many ways with, the broader history of Europe which we all share.

More about the Patarei Sea Fortress Europa Nostra shortlisting

We are but a moment in the flow of time…

 Flow 1Can we speak of love…

love of a landscape,

of the dance of light and cloud upon leaden Autumn waters,

of the sway of cotton grass in a playful Summers breeze,

of the cool green air which wisps around your Spring hair,

of those little details which reveal a world,

of the escape from mundane valley floor,

of soaring rocks, glacial scarred and Winter shattered

raptor and carrion,

your rapture and return…

Can we speak of love…..

…. from fragments,

from imperfect
traces….

from the hard cold realities….

Can we speak of love….

love of the object,

sought,

hard won,
cherished

and

curated.

Flow 4Flow 5Can we speak of love…

separated by 5000 years,

joined by a humanity.

Is it too hard to feel…

what it means to acquire,

to complement,
to share…

Flow 9Flow 10Flow 11

These partial traces,

spectres

of

objects desired,

with no value…
only discard,

detritus,

the waste from

greater

desires…

Flow 12Yet …..

….they were hard won

by trowel,

by folded body

by stiffened knee…..

by cut finger and

aching arm…

they were hard won….

by stone upon stone,

crack and dust,
clatter and clinker,
roughed out…

waste, waste, waste, waste, waste,

the object is borne

Flow 13Can we speak of love….

again revealed,
bagged and tagged
cleaned

measured,

incorporated into a world

beyond their….

… imagine,

a metric curation,

an assertion of the rationale…

suppresses

a terror of what they may reveal…

Flow 14Flow 15Can we speak of love…

love of the object…

a fetish beyond,

love of the insight,

of the revelation,

of the enlightenment,

beyond, we love beyond

the bounds of normal understanding…

for one moment they mattered,

the core of a world denied for millennia,

for one short moment

a sweet anticipation of display and adoration,

of wonder and desire… Flow 16Flow 17Flow 18Can we speak of love…

Care, and ware, grind and polish…

Smoothed and caressed, a concentration,

focus,

effort,

an obsession…

material meditations…

shared and displayed…

an eternal transformation…

objects transcending moments of humanity…

…your daughters daughters sons

daughtersonsdaughtersonsdaughters

tell tale of those who pulled them from

the mother rock…

Flow 19And yet we have inherited hard cold curation,

an uncomfortable,

comfort from discipline,

little known,
little revealed,
little shared,

but we are satisfied ?

with what…

Flow 20Flow 21

Flow 24 Flow 22with the recovery of loss,
with the ordering of disorder,
with the categorisation of the chaotic,
with the control of the uncontrollable….

with our conceit …

can we speak of love…

Flow 25 Flow 26Flow 27Look again,

look carefully,

not at the traces of the past,
but
at the fleeting glimpses

of the future…

Flow 28…fragments shared,

flow

…fragments journeyed,

flow

…fragments retold,

flow

…fragments transformed,

flow

…fragments returned…

Flow 29Can we speak of love…

love of the possibilities of what might be,

love of our shared humanity,

love of the intangibility of the tangible…

Dry and broken husks, pass no more on the winter stream,

occasional glints, below the surface beckon Spring rains.

Flow 32

Can we plant and tend,

seeds of spirit

grow

seeds of soul

grow

seeds of light

roots and radiance,

beyond generations glow.

Flow 34The journey, the narrative continues….

how will you love

heap more order upon disorder

or narrate the next chapter, the next journey

share and tell,

show and reveal,

one year to this day…

is

Flow 35but a moment in the flow of time…

—————————————————————————————————————-

One interest I have are the threads which can be drawn out and traced through the millennia.  So slight, so fine, they can only be seen from certain angles – a flash, a glint, in peripheral glances – but I am sure they are there.

One fragile thread I have been teasing out was originally found in the uplands.  Five thousand years ago people quarried stone from mountain places such as the Langdale, Cumbria and Craig Na Caillich, Perthshire.  From the stone they produced polished stone axes. Polished stone axes may have been considered prestige objects and often traveled significant distances, perhaps handed from person to person.  Each time a polished stone axe moved, its story may have traveled with it linking time and space through the memories of generations.

The piece I present in part here traces these threads and looks forward.  Some images show a small quartz cairn I first created in the uplands six years ago and how it has changed.  Other images show large waste flakes from making rough out axes 5500 years ago: they had been excavated by archaeologists and they were going to be disposed of as no longer wanted for curation.  Many of the images relate to the burn which flows down from Craig Na Caillich axe factory, other relate to prehistoric sites where polished stone axes may well have been used and deposited.

The piece was presented in the Creative Archaeologies session, co-organised by Antonia Thomas, Dan Lee, Carolyn White and Ursula Frederick, at the 2015 European Association of Archaeologists conference.

As part of the piece 25 boxes were given away and an invite extended to those who took them to collaborate in exploring the future chapter of what was inside.

Flow of TimeThe piece extends :

In The Flow Of Time We Are But A Moment ….

Fire and Moon

BuildNBurn 13

Fire and Moon are a powerful combination.  There is no doubting the importance both had in the past, both moon and fire were clearly incorporated into rituals and ceremonies for thousands of years.  What may be less apparent is the power of groups of people building together, a communal effort to create not only structures but more importantly lasting memories of striking events.

BuildNBurn1A week of preparations, involved felling trees, and hand breaking trenches through bedrock to hold the timbers.

BuildNBurn 2Posts were decorated using pigments found from local sources.

BuildNBurn 4Special objects were made in preparation of the events which were to follow.

BuildNBurn 3Everything was set for the arrival of extraordinary figures.

BuildNBurn 5Preparations completed, we were ready…

BuildNBurn 6for transformations through fire…

BuildNBurn 8for remembering ancient stories of the landscape beyond…

BuildNBurn 7for remembering the people who had explored before us…

BuildNBurn 10for measuring things in a new light…

BuildNBurn 9 for transformation, to find a different beauty in wood.

BuildNBurn 11An illumination cloaked in possible pasts.

BuildNBurn 12An intensity of insight, focused at night.

BuildNBurn 14Fire beckoned darkness and called another light.

BuildNBurn 15A monument captured a lunar moment…

BuildNBurn 16 … of rhythms hunted through the ages.

BuildNBurn 17  Memories,

of figures and festivities, fire and moon blended,

blazes.

BuildNBurn 19Could never be revealed in mornings traces ?

——————————————————————————————————————-

The BuildNBurn approach has been developed with Kenny Brophy and Corinna Goeckeritz.  For some partial insights into other BuildNBurn events, please look at:

Burning the Circle 2013

and

Burning the Circle 2014

Please contact me, if you have any ideas for other BuildNBurn events, we are happy to collaborate.

The BuildNBurn presented above was produced as part of the Joseph Anderson 150 Festival organised in collaboration by the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, Northlight Heritage, the Yarrows Heritage Trust, Venture North and Northshore Pottery. The Joseph Anderson 150 Festival was supported with funding from the E.ON Camster Community Fund, supported by Foundation Scotland and by Eneco and Venture North. 

The BuildNBurn performance ‘Joseph Anderson Presents The Mysteries of Prehistories’ could not have happened without the support, hardwork and creative efforts of: Tom (Performance and Build); Andrew Baines (Performance); Cara Berger (Technical Advice); Nan Bethune (Storytelling); Alex Carnes (Performance and Build); James Dilley (Performance); Helen Green (Performance and Build); Steve (the sound man) Mills (Audio);  and Brianna Robertson (Song and Technical Advice).  Thanks also to Ian Giles for providing two carved oak plaques for carbonisation.  Many thanks to Islay MacLeod and Catherine MacLeod for providing copious quantities of wood and putting their faith in the BuildNBurn team.  A special thanks to Amelia Pannett who made Joseph Anderson 150 Festival happen and dealt with too many challenges during the week : but we got there in the end !

Druid Landscapes

‘They are the faults of archaeology rather than art’

LunulaEarlier this year I was privileged to see The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel (1890) in the excellent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  Only seeing the original painting does it proper justice and I urge you to visit the Kelvingrove to see its full wonder.

The DruidsThe painting was supported by interpretative signage, one of which explained:

Hornel Landscape Needless to say this required further investigation.

In his biography of Hornel, Smith notes in relation to the composition of The Druids,

The half-sphere of the moon on the background is reflected in the curve of the hill and the shapes of the priestly insignia, all echoing the cup-and-ring markings‘.

Looking at the Druid Landscape, Smith underplays the extent to which the lunar has been evoked through the cool silvery quality of the light and exaggerated topography of the hills upon which the Druids process.  Rather it as if they wander from and across the very surface of the moon itself, in turn implying the Druids emerged directly from the cup-and-ring markings themselves and those who produced them.

A similar blurring between the realities of topographic forms and the layers of mythological liminality which we inhabit can also be seen in an earlier work by Hornel, The Brownie of Blednoch (1889).  In the background we can again see a full moon resonating cup-and-ring marks.

The Brownie of Blednoch (c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationGallovoidian shepherd beast, beard of circles and cup-marked eyes.  A manifestation of the living rock, tor like outcrop, it dominates a landscape (which would typically be portrayed as a pastoral idyll), above which swoop dark clouds suggesting eldar forms and witch-like figures.

Smith emphasises the importance to these works of the discovery of cup-and-ring markings near Kirkcudbright in 1886 and says,

Hornel searched for other markings in the rocks in the region

during which searches, the idea for The Druids came to him.  Smith continues to explain that on a visit by Hornel to some carvings with an old man, they returned to the old man’s house, where according to an account by A S Hartrick (1939),

….he took from a shelf a small china bowl in which was a small bluish stone like bead*.  Holding this in his hand, in a few minutes he seemed to go off in a sort of trance, and then began to describe,…,a vision of a procession of priests with sacred instruments and cattle which were somehow connected with the cup-and-ring markings.  I cannot remember the details of it; all I can say is the vision appeared genuine, and that he was not drunk. After a time he became normal again, but would not talk anymore on the subject.‘  *I like to imagine this could be a Bronze Age fiance bead most often having been found associated with burials.

The particular cup-and-ring markings which Smith says first inspired Hornel were published in an article by F R Coles (1888).  He explains ‘Some of the most remarkable of these Petroglyphs were those found by Mr E A Hornel and myself on the 23rd February, 1887‘ (ibid 44) and were portrayed as a photo-lithograph:

High BanksIn the same paper Coles reveals ‘While preparing this I hear to-day (14th September, 1887) of the discovery of yet more and more peculiar petroglyphs on the same piece of rock at High Banks by Mr Hornel and Mr Thompson.’ (ibid 46)

Other papers on the discovery at High Banks reveal a few further details about the nature of the discoveries.  In a paper by Hamilton (1887) it is recorded that

‘Mr Rigg, who has been tenant of this farm for many years, states that a great many of such carvings were destroyed about fifty years ago, when the surrounding stone dykes were built from the quarry here;’ (ibid 157)

So it is likely without archaeological intervention the High Bank rock art may have been destroyed completely by now.  Hamilton explains:

The Lady Isabella Hope, of St Mary’s Isle, who is proprietor of this farm, has kindly consented to allow this part of the field to be stripped of turf,…

Hamilton portrays the same panel of rock art as in Coles but explain his paper was

…illustrated by sketches made for me by an artist friend, Mr E Hornel, of Kirkcudbright‘ (ibid 152)

So not only did Hornel first identify the carvings but he also recorded them.

High Banks PSAS 1887 In a later paper, Hamilton elaborated on the earlier memories of Mr Rigg:

 ‘and there must have been many more, for to the east of it a quarry has been worked about fifty years ago, to procure stones wherewith to build adjacent dikes, and the tenant, then a boy, but now a hale old man, distinctly remembers carvings like those now described being visible on the surface of the rock quarried.’ (Hamilton 1889, 130)

He also reveals the extent of the exavations:

Last autumn we carried out our intentions, and laid bare a large portion of glaciated rock. Towards the centre of the northern side of this knoll, from which we removed a foot and a half of soil and turf, we exposed a great many more of theses sculptings‘ (ibid 125)

The 1889 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland paper has a series of black and white engravings of the newly discovered rock art

High Banks Engravingand about which George Hamilton notes:

These engravings are made from photographs taken from casts of the portions of sculptured rock-surfaces, obtained with much trouble by Messrs M’Kie, Hornell, and Thomson, members of the Local Natural History and Antiquarian Society. These casts are to be seen in the Local Museum at Kirkcudbright, and in the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh.’

So in the late 19th century, rock art about 5000 years old, was being uncovered, casts of which were made, of which photographs were taken, of which an engraving was produced, which is now represented digitally !

With such a tantalising set of resonances from the past, a road trip was then in order to investigate further.  On the way to The Stewarty Museum in Kirkudbright there was good omen that cup and ring marks still resonates with significance to this day

Contemporary Cup and RingsAnd upon asking about the plaster casts at The Stewarty Museum, I was quickly pointed to:

Paddle Interpretation‘made by early copper prospectors to invoke the help of the sun-god in their search’

And thus I quickly looked outside to see a nest of carved stones sheltering together through the ages: piled up in front of the casts, quern stones and fonts, Medieval cross and prehistoric rock art reworked as architectural elements of later buildings.  A glass and steel framed disparate assemblage of esoteric forms revealing : a compelling urge to collect and display over the ages?

Cluster of Stone WorkYet, the most elaborate cast slab has been set aside, finding no shelter,

familiar but forlorn.

Cast 1Behind the cast slabs an inscription with further details :

witness to M’Kie then curator of the museum.

Hidden LettersSo where did these casts derive ?

Landscape 1Upon hillside with pastoral views

High Banks ViewOverlooking sea and routeway.

SeaviewsSituated in a changing world, alive with movements.

Landscape 2With depths of skies and shifts of perspective.

High Banks ViewsHigh Banks 2High Banks 3High Banks Rock ArtCasts derived from rock,

and its seductive pretense of permanence.

High Banks 4Stone reworked and represented, filling the void of times lost.

High Banks InterpretationFive thousand year old forms, copied and transformed.

Cup MarkingsIn the library of Broughton House, the residence of Hornel in Kirkcudbright, there are letters which reveal another dimension to this trajectory.  Twenty seven letters written to Hornel by artist and archaeologist (or is it archaeologist and artist) F R Coles – replies missing – provide a one sided insight to a friendship hungry for discovery and portrayal, a glimpse of hobbied obsessions and tentative grasps at Druid spectres.

In a letter of 2 May 1887 Coles writes to Hornel

Hornels Spade WorkI was up yesterday at High Banks rock and saw traces of your spadework

It is also clear then that prior to producing paintings incorporating cup-and-ring marks, not only had Hornel been exploring the Galloway hills searching for exposed rock outcrops bearing prehistoric rock art but when discovered had been illustrating them too.  In the case of High Banks, he had also been excavating to uncover more rock art panels : very much then artist as archaeologist.

In the same letter to Hornel, F R Coles sketches three cupmarks in the corner, a simple trace of his artistic background, and in the earlier letters refers to cup-and-ring is markings written in full.

Coles Letters

Not much later F R Coles would move to Edinburgh where he was Assistant Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland from 1897 to 1911.  Five years since the original discovery at High Banks, letters from F R Coles (now as archaeologist) continued to Hornel.

Hornels AddressThey reveal another dimension of the ways in which cup-and-ring markings were being portayed by F R Coles, rather than written in full he uses shorthand symbols for cup-and-ring markings.  No other abbreviation, or short hand is evident for long or frequently used phrases, only the archaeological subject is reduced : a form of categorical abstraction only too regularly used in the work of the archaeologist.

The mark of the archaeologist is, for many, the excavation trench : a theatrical arena which temporarily opens the veil between past and present.  Powerful indeed then that the presencing of the rock art at High Banks was through Hornel’s spade work, without which they would never have been revealed and transformed – cast, photographed, engraved, digitised – (re)presented through the ages.

Yet ironically, it is the artists striking imagery of the Druids or the Brownie inhabiting the moonscapes of Galloway, which more actively invites us to dwell in the same landscapes as the rock art may have emerged in – 5000 years ago when it was produced, even then a place thick with myths and legends.

Paradoxically, a richness of cultural expression, copied and transformed, can also  be reduced by an archaeologist to the simple potency of

.andO. & o


Many thanks to Denise Briggs (The Stewarty Museum), Sarah Jackson and Sheila Faichney (NTS, Broughton House) for helping with my investigations.

The phrase ‘They are the faults of archaeology rather than art‘ derives from a review in the Glasgow Herald (20th Feb, 1892) of the 1891 painting Summer which was particularly poorly received in some quarters of the press when first shown in public (Quoted in Smith 2010.)

In fairness, F R Coles was engaged in archaeological practice at a time when there was an overwhelming need to identify and record archaeology.  His work stands out at the time for his large number of illustrations of sites which he recorded effectively in no small part through his skills as an artist.

Hornel the artist (informed by the visceral experiences of landscape and archaeology) produced The Druids which, despite its power as a painting, may actually appeal to a limited audience.  In contrast, the simple abstraction to . & o by F R Coles, in part anticipated later scholars views that cup-and-ring marks were potentially very powerful as it is their very simplicity of form which allows multiple meanings and interpretations.

The image of The Brownie of Blednoch is from the BBC

More information about High Banks can be found at RCAHMS Canmore site.

Coles, F R 1888 ‘The recent Cup and Ring Mark Discoveries in Kirkcudbrightshire. (Abridged.)’ Trans Dum Gal Nat His Antiq Soc 5, 41 – 52.

Coles, F R 1895 ‘A record of the cup- and ring-markings in the stewarty of Kirkcudbright’ Proc Soc Antiq Scot 29, 67-91.

Hamilton, G 1887 ‘Notices of rock-sculpturings of cups and circles in Kirkcudbrightshire’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 21, 157-8.

Hamilton, G 1889 ‘Notice of additional groups of carvings of cups and circles on rock surfaces at High Banks, Kirkcudbrightshire’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot 23, 125-30.

Hartrick, A S 1939 A Painter’s Pilgrimage Through Fifty Years. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P.

Smith, B 2010 Hornel. The Life and Works of Edward Atkinson Hornel. Atelier Books: Edinburgh.

Ice Axes

Axe HoardFreezing temperatures and snow means that ice axes can sometimes prove useful.

Snow MouldAxe MouldTransitionsIce HoardHafted Axe

—————————————————————————————————————

The axe has been a powerful tool, both functionally and symbolically, through out much of prehistory.  The polished stone axe in the Neolithic (c 4000 – 2500 BC) clearly has a significance beyond the functional with highly polished examples, that clearly were never used for felling trees, but had circulated long distances.  Yet this belies the fact that in experienced hands the axe is an effective tool to fell and clear woodland, and as such has played a role historically in the transformation of many a landscape.

In the Copper Age / early Bronze Age in Britain c 2500 BC the first metal axes were cast in flat open stone moulds.  Some examples of Bronze Age axes we have in museums were recovered from bogs and / or rivers during the 19th and 20th centuries as parts of groups of objects.  They had been collected together into groups (often described as hoards) during the Bronze Age and deposited as votive offerings in bogs and rivers.  Thus in some cases, objects born of stone and fire were plunged seemingly forever into a watery death.

Inspired by bronze castings I have seen in recent years, and with low temperatures, I wondered if I could cast ice axes?

So I took a replica of a Bronze Age axe and used it to create templates of early Bronze age axes forms : the earliest Broad Butt forms and later more developed forms with more splayed cutting edges and a narrow butt.  I then used these templates to create snow moulds to cast boiled then cooled water into : I couldn’t resist some colour too !

The next morning a small collection of axes were removed from the mould. Collected together I now have a small hoard of ice axes.  As temperatures rise they will probably be gone in a few days time, unlike some examples from the Bronze Age in Britain which have lasted for 4500 years.

Sun Voyagers

Sólfar Sun VoyagerSólfar by Jón Gunnar Árnason is a striking piece of art in the public realm known to many, often pictured back dropped by stunning sunsets.  Its graceful form undoubtedly evokes the Norse ships which brought settlers to Iceland.  Indeed, perhaps the name Sólfar (Sun Voyager) playfully refers to the much debated sunstones (sólarsteinn) potentially used to aid their navigation.

I was just relooking at the photos of Sólfar I took early one morning whilst exploring Reykjavik.  To my surprise I spotted other travelers on the prow and stern of the vessel which I hadn’t noticed when I was taking the photographs.  So intent was I on the art piece that I had shut my eyes to another important aspect of the landscape of Reykjavik.

Sun VoyagingThese stowaways had no need for a vessel.  These perched Arctic Terns, called Sea Swallows by some, have a remarkable migratory cycle, travelling approximately 80,000 km a year to ensure better weather.

Arctic TernThey truly are

Sun Voyagers.

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Ironically, later on that day, despite my inability to have spotted the Sun Voyagers on Sólfar, I spent time photographing the Arctic Terns as they flew playfully above Reykjavíkurtjörnin, one of the photos of which I have inserted above.

Creative Winter

WinterscapeSeasons greetings,

and many thanks to all followers and supporters of HeritageLandscapeCreativity.

Winter is a great time to get out and explore the Heritage of Landscapes.

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 The picture is of bubbles drifting over the wintery landscape of the Vikos Gorge, one location forming part of the Vjosa-Aoos Ecomuseum

Recipe:

  • Visit a winter landscape.
  • Add bubbles.
  • Photograph.

The Sword Cycle

The ability to transform materials can have an almost magical quality.  There is great skill to be able to source metalliferous ores, smelt them to produce metal and then cast to produce complex objects.

Molten SwordNew SwordWhen a Bronze sword was removed from its, typically clay, mould…

Cast Swordits edges were trimmed, sharpened and blade polished.

A wooden hilt and pommel may have been attached.

Living SwordIf Bronze Age metalwork broke (or was no longer desirable) it could readily be recycled.

Melted down and recast in a different mould.

Fiery SwordIf such objects are not repaired, reused or recycled, they can potentially drop out of the cycle, found by archaeologists, corroded green with time.

Lost SwordWhen recovered properly another cycle of study and learning commences.

Fragments conserved, analysed…

Melted Sword…reassembled and interpreted.

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The Bronze Sword cycle above relates to a Wilburton type sword,  a type in production some time around c 1000 to 900 BC.  About this time Iron production commenced and cycles of production and recycling which may have taken place in the United Kingdom for about 1500 years before were challenged by new powers.

During Burning the Circle 2014 the Bronze sword was placed on the central ‘pyre’ structures which burned fiercely for nearly four hours, and then smouldered to nothing during the remainder of the night.  The broken and fragmented remains of the sword were excavated the next morning, amongst the broken parts were hundreds of small spheres of Bronze.  These spheres indicate that, in the heart of the fire temperatures reached c 950 degrees centigrade, at which point parts of the sword turned liquid.

All images are of activities taking place at Burning The Circle, apart from the hafted polished sword which has been kindly provided by Neil Burridge.

 

Beautiful Door

Beautiful Door 1 A patchwork of bronze can be found on the Beautiful Door.

Beautiful Door 2Exquisite detailing,

Beautiful Bronzeis  made all the more remarkable as it is said to have originated from the Temple of Tarsus, in eastern Turkey, in the second century BC.  Monumental bronze over 2000 years old, wrapped around a wooden core.

Bronze and Wood It is said to have been moved to Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, by Emperor Theophilos in the 9th century AD.  Even now, over 1000 years later, it is a significant threshold, a last exist to the tourist.  So long has the Beautiful Door stood here that subsequent floors have been built around it, the lower portion sealed beneath the ground, now unable to close.

Unopened