Naming a Hindhead public sculpture

20130725_2589w900The A3D project’s legacy stone engaged local people over the three months I worked it on site. During the final days, possible names started to come to me but none seemed quite apt.

The thoughts of the creator and viewer may be entirely different – sculpture speaks to you as a result of what you project onto it rather than you needing to ‘get it’. For this reason, having something simple, ambiguous (non-confrontational and non-leading) seems essential to allow viewers not to be channelled when they are quite capable of using their own senses. Conversely, having a name which leads those who are less confident in their seeing might help their route ‘in’.

I wanted to see how others viewed the piece, be they the children associated with the project, locals, or those who know nothing of the background to the area. The appeal for a name (or thoughts on the forms of the stone) brought forth a multitude of responses, many concluding that they could NOT conclude:

The sculpture provoked much pondering. A name has not yet emerged from our collective unconscious (several Windsor sculptors)

Some seemed to me directly observational, especially from children…

Mr Goat
The Beast
(Hal E.)

Others played on words linked to feelings…

Baldur (Anglo-Saxon God of Immortality – also sounds like boulder)
Baldrock (like Black Adder Baldrick, only rock)
Englaceous – born in England from snow and ice. I think the cold must have affected you, even if only on a subconscious level.  There seems to me to be the feel of a polar bear about the sculpture. (all K.Cropper)

or word play, some whimsical, some anthropomorphic…

Are we there yet ?
Dunquein (marking the time spent in traffic jams on the former road)
Tunnel Vision
May the devil take the hindmost
Old Wotalarf, or Mixed-up Monster
The Big White Elephant
Petra – name of Jordan city, an object of reverence, and famous for carvings. Greek word for stone.
Tonie – “Stone” was always Jon’s appellation, of which “Tonie” is a derivative. (both Charles Warner)

Mythological links were numerous:

Thor was here!
monster of the rock
Trojan of the Surrey Hills
The Hindhead Creature
Dormarth – In Celtic myth, the gatekeeper-dog was named Dormarth (Death’s Door).Links then to celtic cross and mythology and being at the start of the closed section of the road, feels like he is guarding it or gatekeeping. (Karen Cropper)
The Griffin of the Four Winds – after what the stone suggests to me and the nearby Temple of the Four Winds site. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions. (Caroline Toms)

And then the biblical…

Beelzebub Rox
Crossing the Devils
The Devil Crossed (John Owen Smith)
Devil’s Ensemble
The fallen angel
The Devil’s stone
Satan’s Brew (Robin Edgar)
Punchbowl’s devil dragon
Devil in Conflict (Sue Paice)
Devil’s Ice Cube
Diablo (Paul Miller/various)
Horned vorare (Katie Teakle)
resurgam – I shall return as new (or) I shall rise again… referring to the landscape post-A3

DIA3LOBrian Stratton took concept to another level. For me, the playful use of such things we associate with illegal numberplate spacing has a lively link to the former road route, plying with commuting traffic. “I’ve chosen the name DIABLO, styled as: ‘DIA3LO’. The reason for this is that it combines all the key elements: the A3 and the devil, summarised in one word. In order to make the ‘A3’ in DIA3LO work best, I’d suggest a font such as Papyrus.”

Alethea Mitchell remarked that the celtic cross and devil together are powerful images.
Do you have a copy of Penguin dictionary of symbols? p254  as under ‘cross’ a story unfolds of the concept of the need of a ransom paid to the Devil – it’s gets v theological if you delve deeper but RANSOM as a name? Think ‘redemption’ pushes too far. Also, on the Celtic Cross the idea of the very centre being a navel-stone, OMPHALOS being ‘a breaking point of time and space’; Omphalos stones were said to allow direct communication with the gods.

Other names suggested other historical links…
Murderers Mount
Sullen Sailors Sculpture
The Hindhead Man

and the geological…

watershed (echoing the Hill on the boundary of two catchments; this also alludes to division)

A number were less linked to the forms but suggestive of the process or feelings:

Intrepid Anticipation (Sarah Richwood)
Accumulating Promise (Hannah Peschar)
Beauty of the ages
Hindhead Heritage Stone
Journey (watching you create, it felt like a journey from start to finish. S. Docking/Di Markmaran)
Trust statue
Common Wayfarer
stone of seasons

My own possibles were:
Myth & Memory, The Myths We Live By, Portal, Origin, Journey, Mythos, Lore, Mindscape, Into the Light, Lithomancer, Touchstone, Seer, Mirror, Mine, Heathen, Landscapes of Mind, Testament, Conflux, Amalgam, Portent, Spirit of Place, Enigma…

Sculptor Diarmuid Byron O’Connor has been artistically involved with the area on a former project. He commented:

“This piece is a great response to both location and process of creation. As with the mythological undertones of “The Devils’s Punchbowl”, named after the mysterious forces that must have hewn such a shape in the earth, Jon has opened a portal into his and the children’s imagination and inevitably Beezlebub has escaped. Like the doom painters such as Hieronymus Bosch, there is an evident relish in Jon’s Devil that goes beyond impish playfulness. It has an ominous presence.
It was a bold decision to start with such a monumental limestone block. It gives the greatest size whilst offering a feasible opportunity in the time available to work the soft stone into something with form; one of the reasons Cathedral builders employed it when they came to express the spiritual forces that surround us. This stone and it’s association therefore predates “art” and “artists” but recalls a time when only the church and wealthy powerful could afford the skill and labour to make grand and bold statements. The actual labour then was highly ordered and disciplined, it had to be lest the buildings fell down. (Who today has not heard of “the Masons” and their secret knowledge?) The visual language too was formal so that all could read the messages expressed. These messages are understandable still, scared and behave or he’ll get you. Therefore I find it hard to look at Jon’s sculpture and not see over a thousand years of history.
However Jon has kept the stone alive in a way that can only come from extemporising. The images have migrated around the central form until a balance has been resolved and a narrative has unfolded. The Beast is still trapped in the block as its head squeezes against he corner pushing itself away from the cruciform in its cage. Figures lick like flames at its feet and so on, one can tell a hundred stories. There is not one boring area, even the mark making leads the eye and emphasizes the form dazzling with energy.
This must be modern Gothic.”

Another sculptor, Cookie Galloway:
What a wonderful project. In the light of it all….it’s a brilliant piece…with such strength and power in it, and this darker side…conveys pain/judgement/religious overtones and all with a certain wildness thrown in. Even brutality too perhaps.

In October, I wrote these notes after exploring the landscape with the children in the project:

I presently see the Devil forcing back the A3 into the depths of the land, to restore the peace of its landscape. And Middle Earth-type Ents – Tolkein’s humanoid tree forms, having dropped in for a hundred years while they rested through the two Great Wars, now deciding to move on, dragging off their leafy overburden and magically re-opening a wide visual connection between the Christian Cross, Sailor’s Stone and wider landscape. Fizzly cracks of lightning and the forces of good and evil are harmoniously balanced in the new, lean landscape.
20130722_2518w90020130722_2515w900That seems now to be very connected with the positive effects of tree removal and this links with a very small stone carving (pictured) which emerged through the early winter, at home. You can see the figure here forcing the trees away.

The emergent figure in the Hindhead stone was quite shocking in its size – taller than the stone it is enclosed by. That it sat close to the celtic cross started to give the narrative of the figure pushing away the cross – that there was some magnetic repulsion. All the other forms seem supporting. An enigmatic bird form brings to mind some thoughts on the Nightjar by Katie Teakle:

that most elusive and redolent inhabitant of heathland. What is there but never seen? This creature has bridged the epochs of man in silence. However in the blackest hours, their chirring through the air meets all who listen, with portents more profound than uttered words

There is a visual nod to the retaliative handful of earth visible, I think:
Local legend has it that the Devil lived at the ‘Devil’s Jumps’, three small hills near to Churt. He would often torment Thor, the God of Thunder, who lived at nearby Thor’s Lie (Thursley), by jumping from hill to hill. Thor would try to strike the Devil with thunder and lightning and once the Devil retaliated by scooping a handful of earth and hurling it at Thor. The depression that remained is the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
The bowl of the geological feature is certainly present under the main figure’s torso, and what felt like the retreating vegetation (from my pre-sculpture thoughts, above) started to assume human form – perhaps the three tortured souls of the murderers hanged on the gibbet.There is also some allusion to the tunnel portals around the base of the stone, something which also emerged strongly in a small carving that I was making at the same time as the larger stone.

So where does this leave us?

The A3 tunnel brought us here. It gave rise to the initiative for the A3D project and it resulted in my involvement for the legacy stone. It is clear there is a strong feeling of a figure emerging, but I feel that creating a name which further strengthens this is not a useful device for getting new viewers to engage with sculpture.

For this reason, my thought is that PORTAL should be the final name for the sculpture;
an elaborate door
the start of a journey
a direct reference to the tunnel ends
a gateway to the landscape
an entrance point to a new phase
alluding to the channelling of creative exploration
an entrance point to the work, alluding to myth, memory and the mind
the stone as a channelling of a perceived life force
perhaps too, subtle word play to the life-blood nature of the stone which sculptors can only hope to find…
and finally the play on words that the portal is the portal vein (‘conveying blood to the liver from the spleen,stomach, pancreas and intestines; Oxford Concise Dictionary), so indeed the life blood of what an artist does, or works towards.

You can see a short Paul Miller film on the working process behind Portal here:

I’m working at RH20 2EL (entrance to RSPB Pulborough Brooks) Saturdays 11-3; good cafe!

twitter @massform

Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2013 exhibition book available here:


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