Saxon Carving: Light Study

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A print that moves from darkness to light - where shadows are replaced with raking light that makes the oolitic stone come alive in the final image. It bristles with light colour and texture. 

When I arrived on a mellowing October dawn the sun, in acute relief, ignited the Warwickshire countryside for a brief period. The landscape an explosion of colour, the church in the copse - the touchpaper. 

Lodged within the light box that is the south transept at All Saints’ Billesley are two pieces of carved stone from former times.

The first is a tympanum, beautifully carved, depicting a man being chased by evil (a serpent dragon) and moving towards the Holy Spirit (a dove).

Beneath such intricate and embroidered beauty lay a lump of stone which, in the half-light of the early morning, didn’t amount to much in terms of visual allure. 

I could just make out the linear outline of a pattern.

Later on in the day, when the sun had swung low and hard to the west, my lump of stone took on a completely different aspect. 

As the sunlight eddied through the Georgian glass of the bulls eye window, and crept along the face of the stone, a revelation took place.

Whilst lighting up the oolitic relief, darkness pooled into the deep undercutting and within a few moments the pattern was alive.

And it dawned upon me.

This is how the originators must have meant their carvings to be seen.

Firstly in the darkness and then suddenly exposed in relief - a piece of visual magic combining skill, time and light.

Only a mindset with a different gearing of time could have created such a thing. Time on a different level.

Such an appreciation of such art has now been lost with our quick-fire world and racing minds. 

We stand for a moment and see the hard tooled stone, without really seeing.

I sat for an hour and watched - completely taken by the moment - sinking into timelessness that I had not experienced before.

A full hour felt like the blink of an eye.

And when the light was gone - my mind shifted gear from their world back to ours.

In this film I talk about the Saxon Carving at Billesley:

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Revelation by Andy Marshall on Exposure