Oneiric heads series ii, 2020
Dedicated to Toots Hibbert (1942 – 2020)
In early 2020, I started work on a new group of small stone heads. Small seemed appropriate, as after hearing about COVID-19, I was aware that it might well be a constraining event, and that I might not be going out for a while. The notion of possibilities being forsworn, avenues closing off and a sense of closing in, translated to me closing in on the stone, paying more attention to these small and, in some ways, more demanding objects.
I started with a collection of about 10 small blocks of stone, marble, onyx and quartzite. The colours varied from white marble to multi-coloured rainbow onyx and almost black sardonyx.
Since the emphasis was on each stone’s smallness, the materials required a particular kind of hard, but delicate work to get right. Some of these stones, the quartzite for instance, are very hard to cut and abrade, and don’t take kindly to fine work. Some, like the marble, while hard, are also very finely and densely constructed by nature, and can be excellent for fine work. The white Avorio di Siena marble for example, polishes beautifully to a softness almost like human skin.
The attention to detail at such close quarters was demanding. I thoroughly enjoy the big movements necessary for working on large pieces, and working on such small stones presented numerous physical constraints. But the delight in seeing almost microscopically into each piece and returning to rework the tiny, ant-like details was truly a labour of attention and dedication.
With this collection, I was again drawn into the aspiration I have with every piece I carve in stone: to find the place where the two of us – me and the stone – coalesce in the space-time continuum. Where the hard and quiet nature of the old stone and I, short lived and very organic, co-exist to produce a certain timelessness. My feeling is that thinking about human dignity, based on serious thought and contemplation of the world, alongside the natural dignity of the stone, allows the work to meld these two notions together in a physical space. This produces pieces of worked stone that embody these years of life on earth, and at the same time having a future equally as long as and possibly longer than their pasts.
Through the intervention of human touch, worked stones become a part of human culture, manifesting the bond of dependence and awe that exists between conscious humans and the planet. There is common ground in our shared history as creatures of this created planet. We are entirely dependent on Earth for our life and our qualities of experience.
It is also an expression of the gratitude I feel for the edgy gift of consciousness. Leaving these marks and forms in the stone seems to me to be embodying human consciousness, and connectedness with the planet, through these ancient, tough and resilient co-habitees. It speaks to our understanding that we are not separate. We are connected, all participants, family, all together a part of this planet.
A small piece of worked stone can embody a lot. It can embody desire, affection, respect, gratitude, prayer, aspiration. And it can embody acknowledgement of pain, suffering, careless deaths, profound struggle, and destruction beyond comprehension: an acknowledgement that these are our heritage and future. In the stone there is a stillness, which perhaps we can sense, an awareness of connectedness, delicate and strong, which allows us to contemplate together a world full of beauty in a universe untellable.
Emily Young, Santa Croce. November 2020