Peak Hollows

5 03 2012

Paul Dobraszczyk, 'Peak Hollows', 2012, coloured paper and sequins.

Hollow between two gritstone boulders on Kinder Scout.

Man-made hollows carved into the gritstone on Stanage Edge. These hollows, each of which is numbered, were created as drinking troughs for the moorland grouse.

Circular hollow near Monk's Dale in the White Peak. These man-made hollows were created as drinking troughs for sheep.

Natural water-filled hollow formed in the gritstone on Kinder Scout.

Abandoned hollow above Monsal Dale in the White Peak.

Natural circular hollow in the gritstone on Derwent Edge





Vertical cities

15 09 2010

 

Underground/Overground, 2006, mixed media

 

Our mental pictures of cities are generally determined by maps – flat projections that suppose a viewpoint high in the air, completely removed from the chaos of the street. This gives rise to a horizontal picture of the city, where all spaces are arranged as if flattened out on a surface to be apprehended at a glance. This may be useful in navigating urban space – getting from A to B, or more likely A to Z,  but it conceals another view of the city, the vertical view. If we were to cut a section through a city like London, it’s vertical structure would be revealed – from the highest hills, church steeples, and office blocks, to the vast underground spaces of the Tube, sewers, utility tunnels and subways. Traversing a city like London often involves just as much vertical as horizontal movement. Yet picturing this in our minds is often very difficult, because we do not conceive vertical space very easily. As a consequence, our constant ups and downs in the city become blanked out, consigned to the drab world of commuting and only noticed when things go wrong. Yet, apprehending our vertical movement – perhaps, even mapping it – would undoubtedly lead to a richer understanding of the city and its complex web of spaces.





Alcazar

20 05 2010

Alcazar, 2009, watercolour on chalk and ink

Seville’s Alcazar, although smaller and less coherent than the Alhambra in Granada, is a fascinating synthesis of Christian and Islamic architecture. Constructed from the tenth century onwards, the Alcazar has been expanded or reconstructed many times over the centuries and, today, it still functions as a royal palace. As with many buildings in Andalusia, the decoration is lavish and all-encompassing. Key to the Alcazar’s decorative impact is a constant play between surface and depth: in the tiles that adorn almost every surface making flat space seem deep; and in the interlocking geometric patterns in domes and ceilings that make depth seem flat. The result is a dynamic architecture that plays on the viewers’ perception, one that tells stories through space. Extraordinary to think that such an architecture was only ever meant to be have been experienced by a tiny elite. Its democratization through mass tourism has transformed – perhaps even redeemed – its basis in an extreme concentration of power.

Decorative tiles in the gardens of the Alcazar, Seville

Dome in the Palacio de Don Pedro, Alcazar, Seville





Dubrovnik

20 10 2009
Dubrovnik, 2008, pencil & pen on card collage

Dubrovnik, 2008, pencil & pen on card collage

The old town of Dubrovnik at the southern tip of Croatia is one of the most attractive medieval cities in Europe, enclosed by gigantic walls and fortifications. Viewed from the nearby island of Lockrum, the old city appears to rise out of the sea (like Venice which it once rivaled) as a mirage of rough-hewn stone and angular roofs composed of terra-cotta tiles. Sea, city and sky appear as in medieval perspective, stacked on top of one another rather than receding to a single vanishing point. Flattened out, the city’s spaces appear as shapes unified yet diverse, playing off each other in the brilliant sunlight.

Only when you get up close to the buildings do you realize that most of what you see is modern. Much of the old city was damaged as a result of the seven-month siege of Dubrovnik in the 1991-92 war between Croatian and Serbian forces. Meticulously restored since 2005, the traces of destruction are now seen only in the different colours of the new and old terra-cotta roof tiles.

Terra-cotta roof tiles, Dubrovnik, 2008

Terra-cotta roof tiles, Dubrovnik, 2008





Spirals

25 09 2009
Stone spiral, Millook Haven, Cornwall

Stone spiral, Millook Haven, Cornwall, 2009

Unlike circles, in which we perceive stillness and completeness, spirals suggest dynamic movement springing out from a centre in ever-larger arcs. Spirals only end when a barrier interrupts their progress towards infinity: the hard casing of a shell, the top of a thermal, the edge of a sheet of paper. Making spirals is about encountering these barriers – stones too heavy to carry, the encroaching sea, or the edge of a beach. Spirals provoke reflection on limitations, in nature and in ourselves; we long for unimpeded movement but are all around confronted by enclosures of one kind or another. Perhaps it is why we often dream of flight, sailing up in spirals on a thermal as the falcon does so effortlessly.

Pilsey Island spiral, West Sussex, 2008

Pilsey Island spiral, West Sussex, 2008

Y Maes spirals, north Wales

Y Maes spirals, north Wales, 2009





Towers

25 09 2009
Five sisters, Scotland, 2006

Five sisters, Scotland, 2006

Towers are perhaps the most elemental of architectural forms – one of the first ‘building’ activities of young children, who take as much pleasure in destroying towers as in building them. Towers might be the products of infantile ambition, doomed to be knocked down by the vengeful; yet, they might also simply reflect on what is already there – a castellated mountain ridge, the undulations of waves in the sea, or a valley enclosed by high cliffs.

Millook Haven towers, Cornwall, 2009

Millook Haven towers, Cornwall, 2009

Rocky Valley towers, Cornwall, 2008

Rocky Valley towers, Cornwall, 2008





Circles

24 09 2009

Stone circles, Crackington Haven, Cornwall

Stone circles, Crackington Haven, Cornwall

When we see a circle, we immediately perceive a sense of completeness – not because of its mathematical properties, but because that completeness is already inherent in the shape itself before any analysis is brought to it. The circle is also a container for a number of powerful metaphors: enclosure, the womb, heaven, sky, safety, security, unity, infinity, return. More concretely, certain places suggest circles or roundness, particularly mountains and beaches. In these places, the making of a circle with found materials provides an opportunity to ‘contain’ the overwhelming scale of the natural world, to enclose its endless horizons, to trace unseen centres; in the words of Gaston Bachelard, in his celebrated book The Poetics of Space, ‘images of full roundness help us to collect ourselves … and to confirm our being inside’.

Stone and driftwood circles, An Teallach, Scotland

Stone and driftwood circles, An Teallach, Scotland

Driftwood circle, Hole beach, Cornwall

Driftwood circle, Hole beach, Cornwall








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