In the Chapter House there are numerous mason marks. Arrows, cut into the stone with hammer and chisel, point in all directions, complimenting the sweeping lines of the vaulted ceiling or pointing awkwardly in the opposite direction.
The arrow stones were carved by one mason and they’re practically all different, I would hazard a guess that the stones without arrows on their exterior have an arrow carved somewhere about them, concealed above. It’s technically impressive and it also seems suitable that the mason’s mark was an arrow within a sea of arches reaching out and leaning over as you walk beneath them.
I’ve been thinking about the celebratory and dramatic movement of Gothic architecture, the sweeping shapes which draw the eye upwards and try to instill that sense of wonder and otherness. Shapes which invite us to contemplate the unknown.
I have been compiling images of imaginary objects on the residency Pinterest page, inspired by the objects and artefacts that have either been recorded or found around Valle Crucis. It’s mostly theoretical, and if history is a theory based on what’s recorded then funnily enough, Valle Crucis didn’t fair amazingly well after the Dissolution. There’s a lead dove at the National Museum, a chandelier at a church which may have come from Valle Crucis, the glass fragments collected and reused in the windows at Plas Newydd, and a couple of books; there was apparently an ivory diptych and a wooden cross. I am building up an imagined collection of forms and materials here and suggestions are very much welcome.
These chisel marks on the brickwork to the doorway have obviously been acquired from some of the fragments onsite and reused in this later repair. The chiseling must have taken off a minute amount of stone so that they sat flush with the wall but we are left with some very beautiful and evocative marks. The original carving, the front of the original stone is now concealed and instead we are now left with the silhouette of the original stone carving against modern mortar.
It is absolutely beautiful onsite now the sun is out. The moorhen chicks are now out and about and I have had to try keeping my eyes off the duck pond so I can get some work finished.
I am working through the list of small, and somewhat larger, spaces I have eyed up for installing my work. I am combining my response to Valle Crucis’ craftsmanship and ornamentation with more specific explorations of these little spaces; mimicking the processes evident in this one area of the Abbey – anything from wrought iron fixtures, carved stonework to later repair work. The spaces have to be considered in three dimensions and I am really excited about kind of window spaces that can be viewed from several different levels and spaces, from the interior and exterior.
I was drawing a small window on the dormitory stairs last week from below when I casually noticed a Celtic style memorial stone in the ceiling of the stairwell. I had never seen it before, despite walking under it numerous times, and it was only in spending time looking at an empty space that I ever would have perhaps spotted it. The tiny, seemingly inconsequential, details of the Abbey are what drew me here in the first place; in responding to them directly I can create a intimate visual dialogue between these usually missed aspects through the unusual appearance of contemporary artworks.