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Quarrying

 

Workers in the Sadahalli granite quarry use brushwood fires to expand cracks in the substrata prior to sub-dividing into manageable blocks by drilling and splitting with plugs and feathers.

 

1-Introduction

2-Attraction to the material

3-Extracting the stone

4-Moving stone

5-Harvesting stone

6-The Quarryman

7-Life of a Quarry

8-The Quarry and the Sculptor

9-Carving and Quarrying

 

Introduction

"There is no stinginess about rock"

--David Leveson

The quarry gives the impression that it is always giving birth to new stone. The bedrock seems to be infinite, a source of continual giving. Indeed the planet has a lot of stone, particularly igneous rock. The lithosphere is the name given to the solid outer portion of the Earth consisting of the crust and upper mantle. It is approximately 100 km (62 miles) thick.

 

Rock of Ages granite quarry, Barre, Vermont, USASadahalli granite quarry, Peenya, Bangalore, India

 

Most rock that humans are likely to come into contact with is in the upper 16 kilometers (10 miles) of Earth's crust. Of this layer, 95% is igneous rocks with only a thin but widespread covering of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. The stone is both the backbone and the background of everything we know. It is always there, a fountain of indifference scattering bits of itself or allowing equally indifferent and seemingly endless quarry blocks to be removed. From indifference everything different and differentiated follows. As each block is removed it is no longer something infinite but rather something finite and measurable.

A quarry is a place of endless giving, a place of repeated exposure and nakedness. All stone contains and condenses time. The discovery of a fossil in sedimentary stone suddenly expands time. The witnessing of time in a quarry is an experience of expansiveness. Here is stone naked for the first time ever.

The experience of standing below in a deep quarry and looking up into layers of the past open now to the air is humbling. Our own limited boundaries expand almost like looking at the stars.

The sense of purpose is evident every time a stone in the quarry is split and removed. This opening of stone is, among other things, an act of revelation. At that instant stone, which has been buried for millions of years, is exposed for the first time. The deep time is made open to the world. As one stands in a deep quarry, seemingly buried in the past, the layers of time can be read above your head.

"Among some of the most attractive of man-made spaces are the fortuitous rock formations which result from quarrying. They form a connecting link between primeval landscape and purposeful construction."

— Bernard Rudofsky

Stone in the earth has been asleep for a long time. The coloured stripes of the strata may represent slightly different times and conditions but the time difference, in the big picture, is slight. A single block of stone is roughly the same age. The exception may be when cracks or holes have been filled in at a later time by soluble stone, little dreams filling gaps during its long-term rest.

 

Henraux Marble Quarry, Apennine Mountains, Pietrasanta, ItalySt Bees Sandstone formation, Corsehill, Annan, Scotland

 

The matrix is the stone's first home and source. Stone has the potential to be reformed and refined but it will never be part of this matrix again. A person unfamiliar with carving might not notice, but in some of Michelangelo's later 'unfinished' sculptures (such as Saint Mathew, the Atlas and Awakening Captives) the sculptor went to considerable trouble to preserve the stone matrix that enfolds the figure. It would have been much easier to knock the edges of stone off completely. He wanted to keep, as part of the sculpture, the power of the untouched stone. He identified for all later generations a strength that can be seen, not in what the artist does but what is not done. In the Rondani Pieta Michelangelo has carved a figure holding Jesus that is generally interpreted as Nicodemus, and is probably his own self-portrait.

Nicodemus, in a medieval tradition had been identified as a sculptor. In the Bible one of the exchanges between Nicodemus and Jesus is the source of Jesus' often quoted remark that unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Surely this aspect of being born again is familiar to the sculptor who sees the block quarried as achievement, only to become a source again for a second achievement.


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