|02: GALLERY : Sculpture : Samaria Totem|
‘ Samaria Totem’ came about as a result of a hike down the Samaria Gorge in Crete. The 14 mile gorge is accessed either by boat from the southern end where it opens out into the Aegean Sea, or by a muscle-grinding descent from its source in the mountains to the north. We chose the latter – at least it is down hill – on the last day the gorge was open in the Autumn, before it closed for the winter rains which generate unpredictable floods and landslides. At the seaward end, the gorge narrows to a ravine so narrow that outstretched arms holding sticks can touch either side. The oppressive cliffs here are scoured many metres up from the river bed by the passing grinding of boulders, bourn up by the power of the winter torrents as they are squeezed through this narrow crack in the ancient bedrock of southern Crete.
However, in the last few warm days of the year we walk alone along the deserted trail that criss-crosses the river bed deep in the canyon, through pine forests, across natural narrow meadows, past empty farmhouses and tiny churches, with only flocks of shy ibex and birds for company, down from the high pastures now that the wandering crocodiles of summer tourists have left for another year.
Halfway down the gorge a wide valley opens to accommodate another deep river that sweeps in from the west, and at this confluence is a vast swathe – acres and acres - of stones, boulders and pebbles contorted into twisting ridges and waves by the torrents and the maelstroms that surge through here from the spring snow-melt high in the mountains.
Through the hot, dry summer, hikers have built tens - perhaps hundreds - of thousands of cairns and columns of pebbles and boulders on every available surface of this valley floor, like those built by Andy Goldsworthy in the river beds of Japan. They balance like a huge expanse of diminutive stone forest, two, three, four and five stones high. Just up the valley sides and safe from the floods, are some gnarled olive trees clinging to the sparse soil, and even these have small columns of stones built onto every branch, into every cleft, and around every root. I find one delicately balanced cairn between two branches and I wonder who has made this, and then it gather up with some wood from around the tree, to bring it home and rebuild it. This is it, ‘Samaria Totem’, first made by an unknown person, and left as far as they knew, to be swept away by the first storm of winter, and now reconstructed here.
There is a certain tingle of excitement to this; a piece of sculpture that the original maker has no idea still exists but who perhaps still remembers the experience of the making - maybe is thinking about it now, just as you are looking at it – together with all the sounds, smells and senses that will be surrounding it in their memory……………..
More recent and on-going work is related to this
theme of journeys, and combine raku ceramic with structures and found
on that journey. Some mark an exact compass point on a circumnavigation
of a mountain, and some a turning point – that exact moment in
a journey where we have reached the furthest step and turn to go back.
At the point of turning there is often an object, waiting to be found
and carried home, and then to be turned over and over in the hand and