Sunday, 7 October 2012

Touching stone

In 2009-10 I took part in a wonderful project by Charles Monkhouse called Companion Stones.

I worked with 2 poets to create stones that would be placed in the Peak District, as a companion to the existing guide stoops that have been located there for 300 years. This made part of a network of 12 new stones created by artists and poets.

Charles recently sent me this photograph of one of the stones, that I created with poet John Sewell.

When the stone was first made, it was a beautiful, clean, pale pink limestone that slightly glittered when the sun hit it. However, the paleness of the stone, though lovely, meant it was hard to read the words that John had written due to the lack of contrast. We were interested to see how it would weather.

Two years on, the stone has become embellished with colours; the action of running water has allowed moss or lichen of various greens to grow over its surface, not touching the sides though, they remain the original pink. It has begun to embed itself into the landscape in the way that stone will, as the original guide stoop (located just opposite across the road) has done.

What I absolutely love about this photograph is the evidence of hands rubbing away the green in order to read the words. The words are carved across a spiralling line that works its way into the stone, forming a slight dish in the stone that draws you into the centre. This idea was to echo John's words, "go inward". It seems that people have been drawn into the stone and rubbed at it to reveal the beautiful words, which are now more readable as they have been filled by the green.

Rock climbing is something I do and I love the touch of hand upon rock, the coolness and the sense of timeless solidity of ancient stone. I have climbed a number or gritstone and limestone climbs in the Peak District, each of which are listed in guidebooks with dates of the first time they were climbed, some back to the 1800s. Climbers over the centuries repeat these same climbs, hands touching the same part of rock, making a connection with long gone climbers through the eternity of the stone.

Our Companion Stone also entices numerous hands to touch it, rub at the words, and be drawn inwards into John's beautiful poem. A connection with others, a companion stone.

You can read John's wonderful explanation of his thoughts when he wrote this poem, where to find (and touch) the stones and about all the other Companion Stones, by clicking here.

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