Thursday, April 14, 2016

Variation on a theme

I have a favourite CD by jazz pianist Jacques Loussier titled Jacques Loussier Trio play Bach - The Bach Book. The opening piece is Prelude No 1 in C major from Well Tampered Clavier, BWV 846 

Every time I hear it I am reminded of the original piece by Bach, (who b.t.w has to be my favourite composer) and I savour all the  transformations Loussier takes the prelude through - the delicate beginning where he hardly changes Bach's melody at all, and then the bass comes in, giving it a slight sense of ‘swing’, and shortly after the drums slide in changing the shape of it. A third of the way through Loussier tackles the entire theme again and interprets it in his inimitable jazz style. The last third is sped up and Bach’s prelude is taken for a exciting jazz ride.

When I look at the stone tree installation that Richard Clegg and his son Lewyn created in the Tatra mountains between Slovakia and Poland I see a beautiful interpretation of the dry stone tree of Eric Landman’s. There is no appropriation here as Richard gives full credit to Eric for the original idea. What Richard does is develop the theme as any composer or painter or any artist might do. Using spoil tailings from the local mines for the walling stone, and rounded granite boulders from a local mountain stream, and local basalt to create the tree bark, the piece, built up against a 5 meter high battered concrete 100s of feet long retaining wall, incorporating Richard's excellent dry stone technique becomes another kind of stone masterpiece. (Wall ties and mortar were only used too to tie the thick mosaic of stone cladding to the concrete wall behind)

Just as a jazz musician uses modern instruments in a fresh style to reinterpret a jazz standard or a painter might take a Madonna and child theme and give it fresh vision and life, Eric's tree theme has been understood in stone in a different way, in a different style and with great success. The shape of the tree was designed by Richard directly onto the back wall using spray paint. The tons of stones laid against the wall follow the lines and there the magic begins.  The wall stones cleverly laid into place keep a level rhythmned backdrop either side of the lines of a lively flowing tree trunk, creating the contrast needed. The verticality of the thin basalt 'bark stones' repeat the trunk theme of the thicker vertically laid Madoc chocolate limestone in the Landman installation.

And then there is the foliage! The foliage swirls like a Van Gogh starry night. Several distinct clusters of stone flowers are embedded in a white chocolate-box network of rounded river rock. The regular coursing of the wall has turned into an explosion of stone growth and cellular-like division. A sense of nature’s geometry and pattern is infused into every stone creating a very random, but non-random looking, arrangement of inanimate components. The swirling mosaic of the foliage is where this tree differs most from the previous tree. April 12 Post  A fugue-like arrangement of stone-notes repeating around and around itself and bouncing back against itself in radiating contours. There is a bubbliness to this tree that completely draws you in. 

The stones of Richard's tree don't just hide the cold greyness of the lifeless concrete wall behind, they completely transform the entire space.

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