The Granite Wall

Earlier this year I became engrossed with building a wall out of granite rocks that occur naturally in this part of west Cornwall. We excavated an area for an extension to our house and the digger turned up huge quantities of fine grained granite rocks. It seemed that with each digger-shovelful of earth, at least 50% was stone - sometimes big ones, heavier than I could move. It seemed a good idea to use the stone to face the block-work wall of the extension.
The granite, I've discovered, was formed an immense age ago (about 250 million years ago) following the Variscan Orogeny, when a vast mountain range extended from what is now Poland, through Cornwall and Southern Ireland and (before the opening up of the Atlantic Ocean), to Newfoundland and linking up with mountains that stretched as far as Alabama. Mountains as high as the Himalayas were thrown up and then slowly completely eroded away. Our granite formed part of the base of volcanoes from this time.
When they are dug up, the stones from only just below the surface are sharp edged, un-weathered, and appear to have been hurled up in a huge explosionand and landed haphazardly with heaps of finer material that is called "rab" in Cornwall.
The granites forms into shapes that are, challengingly for a builder, just out of square. I had previously built some drystone walls,but this wall had to be made with cement and keyed onto the blocks. The wall is in an 'L' shape 4 metres high. One arm is 12 metres long and the other is 6 metres. It is half a metre thick. It is a sort of large collage, using very heavy materials. At each end, on the top, I carved heads out of big bits of granite and placed them there. The stone is terribly hard and I used an angle grinder with a diamond blade and a hammer and chisel to carve these heads. My mind went to the ancient Egypyians who carved very large statues of the Pharaoes out of hard red granite - fragments of them can be seen in the British Museum.The technical achievement of these statues, carved with primative tools and polished to a gleam is breathtaking.
My wall building took months of work: each stone had to be carefully brushed clean before it was placed. When I returned to painting, I found that the systematic construction of the wall building influenced the way I painted. I found myself building up similar rhythms of marks across a picture (for example in 'The Ancient Days'), giving a dynamic shimmering effect.

You can see 'The Ancient Days' on my Exhibitions site and I have attached some photos of the wall here.    

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