The blackest of blacks

Yesterday afternoon I took a memorable walk with artist Peter Ward along the coast just south of Westward Ho! in north Devon. With the rain drizzling in off the sea, Peter was showing me where you could find Bideford Black exposed at the base of the cliffs. Bidiblack, as it is know locally, was a commercially mined pigment up to the 1960s, used in everything from camouflage and stove black to mascara. It is an incredibly intense, naturally occuring pigment that can be found as a metre-wide seam of black clay at the bottom of the cliffs. To touch it is slightly oily, and of course got all over my hands and clothes within minutes! But the whole walk was quite special, the cliffs there revealing layer upon layer of geology, with rocks of all colours twisting and turning, infront of which is a pebble beach that sits on a flat wave-cut platform. The weather was just right for seeing the rocks, the wetness allowing each one to reveal it true colours. Amazing! Thanks Peter.

Distorted Quartz

Clay10, a commission for Newton Abbot Community Hospital, has just been completed. The large disk image high up in the atrium is alligned to a window on the opposite wall of the atrium the glass of which warps and distorts the circle as you approach, finally presenting the picture of a grain of Quartz in a magnified 3D once you are standing right infront of it. It looks great!


That is meant to be Clay to the power of 10, but I can’t find the superscript key. Anyway, it is the title for the Newton Abbot project. A nod to an old favourite of mine, the film Powers of Ten by Ray and Charles Eames. I can’t remember how long ago I first came across this, but is must be a good 20 years ago. I looked at it again the other day, and it still looked good. The idea is so clear, that the dating in the imagery seems of little importance. Great stuff!

Warp and weave

Now completing the molecular models for the Clay10 project. What has surprised me working with such a supposedly rigid modelling system is just how flexible it becomes as it grows, how its own internal tensions produce twists and bends. Then, once suspended and slowly rotating, this wafer-shaped structure (of illite, above) can sometimes take on the appearance of a sphere. Visually the models are quite camelion-like, shifting as your mind tries to make sense of what it is looking at. I need to explore this more through filming them. I think they could take on another form through the lens.

Dancing with Quartz

I’m working on an atomic model for quartz at the moment. It is one of the constituents of the clay that lies beneath the hospital. Quartz has a very regular structure that could repeat for ever, which makes the edges interesting. What to do here? How to break the pattern? I have made the centre of the sphere scientifically accurate, the edges aesthetically accurate. Sculpting with atomic model kits is something I want to explore further. They make you work in prescribed ways – collaboration with a dancer?