Contemporary Jurassic

Here in the studio I have been looking at the end of the stone cylinder carved in the cathedral by a traditional mason, now ready for the scanner at Southampton University. It is possible to see two version of old: first the stone, with the shell spaces and spirals from the Jurassic; and then the surface lines made by the mason’s tool as well as his identifying mark (what looks like ‘IV’ with a line through it), little changed since medieval times and used to identify which mason had cut that stone, and therefore who to pay. What interests me is to see if these features will find a common ground once scanned: stripped of their materiality and the way they were produced, whether the 3D model created in the computer can bring a timelessness to this cylinder, allowing old and new to sit side by side. Not long to go now: April 25th has been set for the scan!

Transforming the roach III

Yesterday evening was spent in the nave of the cathedral filming one of the masons shaping the roach stone from Portland into the cylinder needed for the next step of the process: the CT scanner. But this stone is a mason’s nightmare, hard shells embedded in soft stone and riddled with holes (the pseudomorphs of shelly creatures from the Jurassic). To watch the variety of tools and techniques used to slowly coax the block into a cylinder was brilliant…and the sounds! The sounds of all the different tools echoing around this building which is, in effect, a massive stone resonance chamber (with a 7-second referb) was quite something. Sound and stone colliding. Just from its surface the roach intrigues, with the shapes and voids half revealing the fossilised forms within. But I am now really looking forward to seeing inside this roach cylinder with the CT scanner. Thanks Ian for doing such a great job!

Transforming the roach II

Within the etymological root system of the words spirit, science and art are these three: breath, knowledge and practice. I practice, in every sense of the word, and sometimes I find it useful to think in pictures with words, never sure where it might lead.

Transforming the roach

Last week I picked up some off-cuts of roach stone from the quarry on Portland. The roach has now started its transformative circular journey which will culminate in its return to the island in time for the Olympics: from Portland into the spiritual into the scientific into the artistic and back to Portland. It is now in the mason’s yard at Gloucester cathedral in preparation for being taken into the cathedral to be carved into the optimal shape required for the next step, the scientific. More on that when it happens. Thanks Pascal for your help with this.

Dissolved island

God was it foggy last week on Portland! The fog, drifting in off the sea in patches (in the morning from the east and by the time I left in the afternoon, from the west) dissolving the edges the island. The fog horn burping out at regular intervals, making the whole Bill feel even more eerie.

Beams in the night

Just had to share this one with you: taken from the top of the lighthouse at dusk with Coastwatch’s new CCTV camera, you can see two of the lighthouse’s four beams of light sweeping along the horizon. They are so strong they feel physical, as if they could knock over any ship that they passed over on the water. Four beams every 20 seconds.

Roach in car

Down on Portland today, picking up some roach stone from Albion to put into the CT scanner at Southampton University. I now have three blocks sitting in the back of the car which should slow my progress back up the motorway tomorrow. At last, this project is moving from the theoretical into the actual! I wandered around the offcuts yard with the company geologist searching for the perfect piece of roach with as many fossils in it as possible. I also had a tour down the mine looking at the features that only the trained eye would understand: fossilised root patterns on the ceiling of the mine, also massive fossilised sand ripples created by a massive storm. Down there, in the underground grid of modern mining, it is a curious mix of the magical (when you think of how this stone was made) and the practical (lots of stone going to London at the moment for the Olympics. Check out a few of the newly refitted tube stations and you might well find a Portland fossil staring back at you!) Thanks Mark for showing me around today.