Category Archives: Architecture

Mark Making and Reduction

 

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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.

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A Plumb-Line

Work in Progress April 2013

Valle Crucis offers so much to inspire artists that it’s difficult to narrow down but my focus here is the craftsmanship in the building and the repair, or interaction with the site visible or in some way palpable today. I am finding ways to explore and represent the unknown craftsmen and inhabitants of the Abbey through my own making.

Working my way through ‘Builders & Decorators, Medieval Craftsmanship in Wales’ yesterday I found myself wondering about angles and straight walls – how did you know what 90⁰ looked like in 1201? I remember my dad’s plumb-line and then I turn the page and find: “For this he used a plumb line – a ball of lead attached to a piece of string – which was amongst his personal processions.” Wonderful, simple, timeless technology.

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Onsite the Medieval master mason created templates from wood, metal, or sometimes canvas (if you needed to transport it around with you of course), for the other stone masons to trace onto stone before carving. Simple technology.

My work often mimics the processes and techniques behind craft trades and disciplines and here I am interested in taking the plumb-lines and templates away from their intended functions. Without the need for a straight line a plumb-line is an object suspended from a piece of string, and without the need for uniformity a template is just a silhouette. As purely intriguing objects they can be appreciated for their narrative content alone, which is very similar to the way in which a museum presents its artefacts. Here, rather than their educational content ruling their purpose I am interested in mimicking these forms for their more ambiguous and poetic symbolism.

Ancient Honesty

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I’ve been slowly working my way through a fairly comprehensive book all about Valle Crucis which Roger the custodian lent me. The Cistercian’s relationship with ornamentation really intrigues me and having dipped into the architecture chapter I’ve now really begun to notice the strange extent of simplicity and decorative stonework around the site.

A few nice quotes from the book, Valle Crucis Abbey, by G. Vernon Price, providing food for thought this week:

“The 1134 statutes also relate to sculpture and painting in the following terms, “That there may not be any sculpture nor picture in our churches nor in any parts of a monastery, we hereby issue interdict: for so long as attention is given to such things, the good utility of meditation, or the religious discipline of gravity, is often neglected; we have however some painted crosses which are of wood.”

“Notable superfluities and curiosities in sculptures, pictures, edifices, pavements and other such objects, which deformed the ancient honesty of the Order, and are incongruous with our poverty, we hereby order shall not exist in abbey, granges or store rooms, nor shall any picture save an Image of the Saviour (which are attached on a board to the alters, and are only painted in one colour).”

Of course, then there is “ample evidence to show that they [architects and builders] attempted to produce imposing and magnificent edifices, venturing to disregard the original spirit of the Order as far as they possibly could.”

“It has been recognised that this disregard of rules has resulted in a peculiar sense of architectural insincerity, combining a style of ostentatious display and strained Puritanism.”

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