Sculpture in the New Edition of Dappled Things

The new issue of Dappled Things features some amazing sculptures by Andrew Wilson Smith that will no doubt interest Guild members and fans. There is also an interview of the sculptor conducted by Matthew Alderman, which includes bits like the following:

In my mind the idea of tradition incorporates the concept of a contract in which our ancestors, ourselves, and our descendants are obliged to keep one another’s interests in mind as we manipulate our surroundings.

A good example of this contract is found in a stonemasons’ tradition, in which the current generation of masons starts the process of preparing lime-mortar for their sons’ use twenty years in the future, and at the same time make use of the mortar prepared by their own fathers. This understanding of tradition can be applied to all aspects of life, but I can think of at least a few examples of its application in my own life and career as a sculptor. I have had several opportunities over the years to learn artistic technique from masters who gained very little for their pains. The artists who did this for me had received similar gifts in their youth, and I am thus obliged to pass along what I have learned and thereby continue the chain into the future.

Another example will help us distinguish this kind of approach to tradition from the ideas current in the world of contemporary art and design. Modern art movements are disdainful of monuments, and especially a monument to the achievements of an individual. Three things breed this repulsion: the individual being represented is old, dead, and it’s not me!


1 comment:

Dr. Thursday said...

This is a very interesting point. One of my countless favourite lines from GKC is this:

If we were at rest in a real paganism, instead of being restless in a rather irrational reaction from Christianity, we might pay some sort of pagan honour to these nameless makers of mankind. We might have veiled statues of the man who first found fire or the man who first made a boat or the man who first tamed a horse. And if we brought them garlands or sacrifices, there would be more sense in it than in disfiguring our cities with cockney statues of stale politicians and philanthropists.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:200]

One of a dozen projects for an artist's rainy day would be to sketch one or more of the statues.

I found this idea so moving that I have put the scene into my Saga. Here's my own (verbal) vision of that scene:

They came into a huge lobby. The floor was tiled with black and white – a vast chess board. Far above Mark were colored skylights, but he did not try to discern what scenes they showed. Then he came to the first statue – and stopped.

The statue was perhaps twice human size, but a thin veil of black was draped around it, except for one bare foot, raised as if it was climbing the rock on which it stood, and a naked arm holding a flaming torch. The pedestal was of granite, left in a raw state as if it had just rolled down from a mountain, but there was a finely carved base and a flat area deeply engraved with large capitals which read: "THE MAN WHO FIRST FOUND FIRE."

Mark stared up at it, his mouth wide. Then there was another, but this one was distinctly feminine, honestly feminine and yet completely chaste, with a child at her side; its title read, "THE WOMAN WHO FIRST MADE BREAD."

Then Mark realized there were other statues – many other statues. The lobby went on and on, and eventually there were some without veils, some of whom he recognized, but no dates were given, and no names, and yet even among the moderns he found some which were veiled – including their titles.

[from The Horrors in the Attic chapter 18; available at all bookstores of Quayment]