Ritchie Studio

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Notes on a Monument, 1998/1999

The two sculpture monuments that I have designed are both concerned with light as the primary emotive element, not the form nor the structural expression.

I am interested in the idea of the presence and absence of light; in the way it materialises or dematerialises matter, and the object. I am also interested in the way that light itself appears and disappears. In the case of the Spire of Dublin I had the idea of trying to capture the sky ­ not literally as a mirror image that one might see in a puddle in a gutter, but as light itself and its changing intensity as translated by the sky. To do this, the idea of both reaching out to touch the passing clouds and of creating a surface down which this light would travel seemed perfect. At night, it was not only important to be aware of the skies luminance from the city beneath, but also to provide hint of light from the Spire itself in the night sky. This conjures up the eternal idea that all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the flame of a solitary candle.

Thus the form – ­ a slender spire made from a peened surface of stainless steel would physically translate these ideas. Even the idea of lightning ­ that most intense light ­ is suggested by the form that stretches to the clouds.
To show the creative hand at a work which may easily be overlooked by the sheer scale and precision of the monument suggested elaborating the base of the Spire. This more intense capturing of light of the activities of man ­ homo faber with his cars, his city and all that collides and colloids ­ led to the notion of polishing this part of the spire but in a pattern that also revealed subtly more about the other, perhaps more cerebral thoughts behind the Spire.
The pattern is made by mirrored areas being masked during shot peening. Shot peening is a process that both cleans and hardens the metal surface, and the technique can also impart a texture to the surface. It is through the nature of this texture that the quality of the reflected light can be defined. The pattern itself was created from the interference of a 2D double helix, DNA, laid upon a 2D scanned image of a rock core sample taken from the site. This 2D pattern was then retranslated onto the lower frustrum of the conical spire using a laser cut masking material which was impervious to the bombardment of both shot peening materials, stainless and glass. The representation upon the monument’s surface of the hidden rock below the surface and the normally invisible DNA of man has provided an abstract pattern, but one that gives a hint of the Irish diaspora ­ the idea of scattering and of ebb and flow.
Finally, the idea of the diaspora being represented by pulsed mercury moving upon a hand drawn and carved spiral on Kilkenny black marble was replaced by a cast bronze disc incorporating a precision machined logarithmic spiral, with varying amplitude ­ higher and more intense at the Spire’s base and ending flush with the surrounding stone of the street. Inevitably, lying in the spiral will be rainwater and the literal, though fragmented image of the sky reappears by its own juices.