From 1981 until 1985 I lived at Brough in Cumbria. For some of
that time I worked as a part-time gardener on the Helbeck Estate,
just above Brough. From the walled garden on a clear day I could
see across to Hartley Fell and the constructed piles of stones
called the Nine Standards.
Although not very large compared to the scale of the overall surrounding
landscape, it is extraordinary how the Standards dominate the
valley below. They are a watchful presence on the skyline
slightly threatening yet at the same time guardian-like.
I learnt much about the siting of sculpture from the Standards
not least, my own reluctance to place work directly on
hilltops. It can be too obvious and at times arrogant as
if somehow the sculpture has claimed the hill. Only occasionally
have I made work in such places.
A few years earlier in 1980 I struggled for several days to make
a stacked stone sphere. Climbing up to the Standards could have
been the stimulus that provoked the ball to grow into a cone and
become one of the most repeated and most travelled forms in my
work. I know that I made my first cone at Brough and that one
of the Standards is distinctly cone-shaped.
Like the cairns that define paths in the mountains and fells of
Britain, the cones have become journey markers to my travels
leaving a trail. Some made in ice or branches remain as memories,
others still stand in America, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland,
France and England. There is however, another journey that is
for me possibly more important than travelling, which is the journey
and exploration into the form itself.
What may appear as repetition is in fact a deepening awareness
of the richness and variation contained within the form. Sometimes
differences can only be seen and understood through repetition.
I learn something new with each cone. When I stop learning I will
stop making them.