The reception was very pleasant. I got to meet Gerd Koch, for whom the space my installation is in is named. He’s a charming man with as many rings on his fingers as are on mine. It seems that the gallery used to be his studio space, and when he chose to work in a new space the gallery was formed and named after him in his honour.
Rich Brimer said that he liked the soft edged lighting, then was surprised that I had made it hard edged. He didn’t realize that the gravel changed colour, there’s no lighting effect. He’s editing some video of the exhibit, which I’ll post the second it’s done.
After the exhibit I went to dinner with Rich, Kathrin Raab-Questenberg and Terry Spehar-Fahey, so we got to talk art and politics (interesting because there’s a pretty broad range of political opinion amongst us). I can’t get enough of the company of other artists who really mean business. There’s a cameraderie there that isn’t easily found elsewhere. And in addition to good company the Rat and Ferret serves an excellent pint of Fuller’s IPA.
After a five hour drive we arrived in Salisbury, where we were privileged to be able to spend dawn within the stones at the greatest of megalithic monuments. It’s hard to describe how this felt, as the last time I was among the stones was at the 1984 festival, when I followed the druid procession and saw the sun rise beside the heel stone in a beautiful display. It was amazing to be there then among thousands of celebrating people, quite a contrast to the peace I found this morning. Prior to the festival I had been to the henge several times with my parents and I remember playing soccer as a young boy among the stones and eating our sandwiches while sitting on a fallen megalith .
Today was grey and foggy, but beautiful. Crows and ravens populate the site, nesting in spaces upon the trilithons.
We made it to St. Michael’s Mount, which is an island at high tide, but part of the land at low tide. It’s a wonderful in-between place, used by Neolithic folk as a location where they could meet ship born traders in search of tin. Pytheas the Greek visited this place in 350 BC, which ultimately led to a little trouble with the Romans.
This megalith hangs onto the cliffside next to the castle at the highest point of the island, indicating the antiquity of the site. It’s not approachable for close inspection, but looks like a Celtic cross of the type found here in Cornwall.
Bodmin Moor has a very different character to Dartmoor. It feels more damaged and exploited after the centuries of tin mining that has happened here. It’s bleak and has a similar population of horses and sheep, and we discovered that the local farmers breed cows on the moor with the bulls on the loose. We saw four during our hike, avoiding them carefully.
Four thousand years ago Neolithic people were here building their enigmatic structures. This pair of megaliths is known as the Pipers, found standing at the edge of the triple stone circle called the Hurlers in the middle of the Moor. It’s another unusual site, being the only triple circle I know of.
Here, resting in the British Museum, lie the remains of an ancient Briton. This fellow was placed in a crouched position with a beaker marked with the impression of a piece of cord.
The people who made the great stone circles were the same as contemporary humans: equally intelligent, just as worried for the futures of their children, identical to us. They prevailed in conditions that were sometimes severe and survived to pass their heritage to us. Shouldn’t we respect and admire our heritage? Megalithic culture spread as far East as Mongolia, where extraordinary standing stones survive, decorated with leaping animals. The megalith builders were capable of great architecture and spectacularly gifted as tool makers with limited resources. I find it hard to comprehend how difficult it must have been to build Avebury, West Kennett, Stonehenge and the other marvels of the Neolithic.
Now the bones in the museum excite children, but they can also act as a reminder of how close we are to those ancient people and how much we owe them.
Here’s an interesting contemporary twist on neolithic culture, a chromium megalith. I enjoyed the play on ancient and modern cultures in this piece. This was also at the British museum, but I cannot locate any information about the artist or materials at the moment.