I found a shady corner on a hot day in the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden (part of the Tate in St Ives). I had walked through Hepworth’s bronze installation “Conversation with magic Stones“: comprising three standing figures and three low-lying irregular polyhedrals. The notes tell me that though this was a late piece, it was a large-scale realisation of ideas developed through multiple earlier works across several decades. For her, the figures depict something of human relationships: totemic persons in tension with each other, the mythical landscape and magic stones. From my standpoint, I saw the hard-edged uprights alongside the less regular lines of the bamboo setting: the distressed flat metallic surfaces against the smooth natural cylinders.
When I looked at my sketches made over several days in Cornwall, I started to recognise something that Hepworth had been conscious of in developing her work. Here are three of the ten or eleven remaining stones that comprise the Nine Maidens of Boskednan sited in the midst of moorland. These placed stones speak of now unfathomable relationships among the early Bronze Age inhabitants and between them and their surroundings. How did these stones relate to matters of kinship and exclusion, exploitation of resource, search for meaning, and hierarchy of power?
On the coast west of St Ives, I chanced across another stone circle set deeply in the ferns. This was not marked on the map: I cannot say whether this is the work of ancients or a contemporary folly.
Each sketch was started in pen and indelible ink – really an exercise in mark making. However, I then applied conte crayon to give texture and act as a resist for simple watercolour washes.