It was a postcard of a painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw from 1868, based on a photograph by Thomas Ogle in 1864, that prompted Dunhill and O’Brien’s initial interest in the Bowder Stone, apparently the largest free-standing boulder in the UK.

More than the boulder itself however, it was the addition of a staircase leading to the top of the rock that caught their attention – turning an otherwise impressive natural phenomena into a poignant architectural form, posing as both a pulpit and viewing platform. Here in one of the most ‘unspoilt’ areas of England (the famous Lake District) is a rock that has been tamed and domesticated.

Visiting the Rock made a connection with the traditional art form ‘Suiseki’, (translated as Stone Appreciation) that they had encountered and studied during residencies in Japan (2007, 2010). Suiseki involves the selection and display of untreated stones, chosen because of their resemblance to landscape forms, particularly mountains. Collected and presented on tailor made stands, they are a somewhat oblique form of memento mori. Suiseki are highly prized and treated as objects to be contemplated and revered, free from the more negative associations stones and rocks have acquired in Western culture with popular idioms such as: ‘between a rock and a hard place’; ‘like getting blood out of a stone’; ‘deaf as a stone’ etc. The Myth of Sisyphus also inevitably resonates with the Sculptor’s continual urge to make new works.

‘Stone Appreciation 1’ involved 3 elements: a full sized fabric ‘toile’ from the Bowder Stone, reconstructed as a landscape in the gallery supported by a structure of over 200 wooden stands plotted against a diagram of the rock; a wall based work incorporating 80 different photographic postcards of the Stone reminiscent of film stills of the Stone over a hundred year period; and a video of the collaborative process employed in measuring and recording the stone. 





all photographs by ..

with special thanks to Toshihiro Komatsu and Aya Komatsu

This project was supported by Kyoto Seika University and the University of the Arts London