CM: Who or what are your leading influence(s) as an artist and why?
LE: It’s the story of bronze and it’s the story of the bronze age. It’s the story of all the cultures that have used bronze and the figure. It’s always struck me that bronze is like an art metal for centuries and millennia, right from the beginning, and most cultures seem to have arrived at the figure form through the metal. That is what I’m really interested in addressing.
It comes from all cultures, it comes from Greece, from Italy and the Renaissance, it comes into Northern Renaissances and it comes from the French late 19th century and early 20th century, from Richier, and then England with the postwar British artists who were influenced by the process of lost wax casting such as Turnbull and Chadwick, Paolozzi and Butler, all of whom used bronze in exceptional ways. They were influenced by Giacometti, Richier and by Rodin, and it goes back on that trajectory. I am moving away from French influences and late British postwar influences and thinking about Northern European and German late Renaissance. I am half German, so I think there is an ancestral link there. I am looking at northern European cathedrals, rude screens, churches, I am looking at the expressive head.
The spine of influences has always been bronze, the spine is metal, and spine is the figure.
And landscape, that’s my art influence, my landscape here and the writing around landscape which has been just as influential as any artist. My main avenues of thinking are definitely landscape, my connection to landscape and my connection to the writing about landscape. I constantly read writings about landscape. Sebald was a big influence 20 years ago. He walked right through my landscape and opened it up for me and shaped it and showed how you could extrapolate from walks in the landscape to thinking globally through time and history, through moods and states of mind, and psychology, and through literature.
I am a Suffolk person, my mother was German, my matriarchal line is German and my paternal line is just Suffolk back to mediaeval times, so it’s my people as it were, my tribe, and I make tribes, I make tribes, groups of figures, collections of people, communities, which is certainly an occupation of this landscape.
I am a big walker, I walk every day in the landscape. I live in Suffolk and am surrounded by nature. I set off on journeys and buried sculptures in the landscape. It was very much echoing the ship burials that took place 1500 years ago here with the Saxon populations. There were Saxon cemeteries visible from my studio. I was very aware of different peoples and different psychologies and different consciousnesses occupying the landscape here and I was very keen to take him to all that. The vague archaeology of the landscape is important.
And the church, my family history connected to the church. I rejected it completely, but those buildings dominate this landscape and my first real experience of sculpture in this landscape was the tombs, and lying figures in churches, stone carvings of characters lying with dogs at their feet, and I made that lying man sunk into the marshes. It seems to me that that’s the journey, the beginning of the journey, a combination of those experiences.
I was brought up in Snape, I also had Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore at the bottom of my garden basically so there was that kind of modernism with sculpture all around me as well as well as those churches and the architecture, and the archaeology of the landscape. And Ted Hughes, and Dylan Thomas.
CM: What are the processes involved in making your work?
LE: I photograph a lot in the landscape, and I collect wood. It’s good to have a studio where nature is coming in, and you can see how this is influencing my sculpture. This whole studio is immersed in growth and all this growth invades me every year. It’s always here, it occupies my thinking constantly it’s much more of a subconscious mindful existence, and it’s important to have it constantly needing to be dealt with as a problem. Nature invades the studio, all the plant life outside breaks in and makes life very difficult. The windows are difficult to close, I saw ivy in the fridge the other day, it’s quite wonderful! It’s that kind of entropy that I’m interested in, it’s almost malevolent, a creeping kind of Triffid, it affects my life. I was worried when I left the studio in the marshes but it’s in me, it’s there planted, it’s all part of me, the landscape is still here, and I’m still here. This studio has a completely different relationship with landscape, it’s much more personal, it’s more about penetration, it’s more about invasion, about dealing with a co-inhabitor, it’s dealing with living alongside nature and looking at it and thinking about it as an abstract thing. Leaves will fall on the back of my sculpture tonight and I will have to make decisions about those leaves in the morning, so it is quite wonderful to have that, nature is a bigger part of my life than it was then. It’s a symbiosis with nature, a relationship where we feed off each other.
CM: What would you describe as the intended impact of your work today?
LE: I am a human being trying to make work about responding to my environment, to nature, and the fact that I’m a member of a tribe, of a community, and my psyche is shared and my way of inhabiting the world is shared. I might be documenting that kind of experience so that people can share that and connect with it in a certain way.
There is a performative aspect to the work which I really love for example, ‘The Creek Men’ coming through the landscape was a massive moment for me. These figures came down the river and were floating outside the Maltings and at high tide the ankles were above the reeds and their bodies had risen to almost superhuman status, and at low tide they were in the mud, sitting below the mud, so there was this extraordinary relationship like a pressure valve, like a barometer of the environment, a barometer of time. It was all about the water, about the mud, about the landscape, about the environment, about the synergy, about their relationship, and also with the stars, the cosmos, the moon controlling the water. The spring tide was their way in, they couldn’t leave until the October winter high tide, and although there was a fight to get them removed, they couldn’t be removed. The land between low tide and high tide was called no man’s land and they were occupying no man’s land. It was a powerful, powerful time, they became a cause célèbre, people battled their way to see them, and they return to see them. Loads of people wanted them to stay, there was this wonderful feeling of impermanence, but permanence as well, just like us. They were floating, not connected to any land but they were static, they never moved, they were like anchors. So, it was wonderful, and stumbled upon by accident so they became a core document for me, and I don’t think you could ever match it again. Robert Macfarlane wrote beautifully about them. They really epitomise that relationship, and the legacy one would want to create, and the relationship that one wants to evolve, it’s about that stuff that hits you in the gut that, that you connect with emotionally, it’s not really about art, it’s about human connectivity.
It is definitely important for me that I have modelled the figure, and I have made it to experience the making, going through a journey with the making, impregnating it with a kind of psychology, a consciousness, it’s important to have that journey embedded in the sculpture something that a scan or a 3-D print would not achieve. I have to have this journey, this torturous long folly, which is really where the soul is injected into the objects and that soul is left to omit through good locations and good placing, it can actually hum in landscape, just emit for a long, long time, that is my ambition.
Big summer, finally the two halves of the Colossus joined. The Yoxman is a step closer.
Here’s a little visual journey!
Meanwhile , this Dovecote at Hedingham Castle in Essex has played host to this figure in need of rest. It wasn’t eggs they farmed in these nest boxes.. It was the Squabs, young bald pigeons… collected daily for Squab Pie! Yum…
Big Day! another four year project concludes…
On saturday, October the 2nd. Doncaster plays host to marching bands and a banner procession, speeches and folk music to celebrate the unveiling of ‘A Rich Seam’ the tribute to Doncaster Miners i’ve just installed..Please make it if you can its going to be a great day. Starting at the Mansion House at 1pm.
A new book chronicalling the story of the Doncaster pits and the making of the sculpture will also launch.. I’ll sign it if you like!!!
Accompnying the opening, I have my first solo show at ‘Messums Yorkshire’ opening on the 1st October in Harrogate, see Messums Wiltshire website for more information.
Oh and talking of wonderfulbooks, This book accompanies a show i’m in in the St Barbe Museum, Lymington , Hampshire..the title of the book tells you what its all about, a great survey of all the great Post War british artists that have evolved this peculiarly english subject, Good writers and curators too..available at all good bookshops..Show continues until January 2022… check out their website for timings….
Big fan of Edward Burra, who happily features.. this painting is awe inspiring..
Hey…….Thankyou for spending the time!!! Its been emotional!!!!
In 2018 Edwards was awarded a commission by Doncaster Council to create a sculpture that celebrates the lives of those who had worked in the pits around Doncaster. Before this commission, there was nothing in Doncaster to show that it was a mining community or had any mining history. Joan Hart who was one of those who sat for their portrait stated that miners were “a unique breed of men” and that it was important to have something to remember the miners by. For Laurence, the commission seemed right as miners are the literal embodiment of men of the earth, a theme that Laurence explores in his sculptures. He also felt that it would be a great test for a southerner to engage with a “northern community” and great a sculpture that would engage with the community that is in many ways still in trauma.
The sculpture consists of 40 portraits of former miners, whom Edwards sculpted in wax while they told their stories. These sessions were filmed by Doncaster College to form part of an online archive.
“The conversation always started with introductions and basic biographical facts, the dialogue flowed naturally after that, with silences being embraced, the spaces allowed me time to look properly.”
In February 2021, A Rich Seam was installed in Doncaster City centre. The bronze faces sit in hand made crevices of two 20 tonne pieces of York Stone from Huddersfield, with a central miner figure between them. Seam refers to Barnsley Bed which Doncaster sits on and from which coal was mined. Coal has been mined in Yorkshire since potentially the Roman times, but exponentially increased from the 18th century due to the invention of the steam engine in 1712. During the industrial period and due to the building of the Liverpool to Leeds canal the amount of coal being mined in Yorkshire increased exponentially as it could be transported easily to other areas of Britain. However, with the increase in competition from foreign companies and the increased privatisation mines began closing, stripping many towns of their identity and purpose.
Laurence went up to the region around Doncaster and spoke to miners and their families about mining and how its loss had affected their community. What stood out to him was the passion and commonalities between the testimonies.
“All spoke of camaraderie, of the danger, of death and of community and the real sense of loss which is impossible to grasp. One miner said to me imagine the government closing ‘Art’ down, stopping you doing it ever again, then imagine a city full of artists.”
He moulded each portrait out of yellow wax with his hands, as the individuals spoke. Laurence would see three individuals a day and each sitting would last two hours. Each finished bronze portrait sits in a niche cut into Yorkshire stone, which Laurence calls “faces in the rock”. For Laurence Edwards, this was a “jump into the unknown” because the initial sittings were timed a filmed all while he was interviewing the subjects. The central figure is Listening Miner which is meant to be evocative of how the men would hear the geology settle at the end of the shift as the machines were turned off.
If you would like to watch the filmed portrait sittings please click here.
The sculpture now stands outside the Frenchgate Centre to show how literally mining is to Doncaster. Councillor Nigel Ball wanted to “locate the iconic piece of art right in the heart of Doncaster – a celebration of our mining history and the huge spirit of our miners and their communities.”
Homecoming has been commissioned for a new housing development that resides near the remains Norman campsite. The figure took inspiration from the scenes in the Bayeux tapestry and the Normans’ arrival in England. Edwards was fascinated by the influence the Normans’ had on Britain not only in terms of architecture but also language. Without the Norman invasion, words such as allowance and beef would not be in the English vocabulary.
Homecoming continues the themes of walking men and migration seen in Edwards recent works. The figure would not only have had migrated to England but also through England as the Normans’ continued their conquest. The figure is an exploration into the life of a professional soldier with little autonomy over their path in life; he may be walking but he hasn’t chosen where he walks. We witness the soldier at the moment of his return home which is perhaps appropriate for a sculpture situated within the commuter belt, echoing those returning home each evening.
There is a duality to the figures face; one side appears hopeful and the other fearful. It manifests the anguish of coming home having been away, unsure of what has changed and what has stayed the same. Although dressed in the regalia of a soldier with a shield and helmet, this is not a glorified return, he appears a battered and well-used man. In fact, his tunic is made from an old overall of Edwards’. There is a sense of anxiety in how the ropes are twisted around his shoulder which implicitly rather than explicitly reflects his mental state.
Laurence Edwards read Paul Kingsnorths ‘The Wake’ trilogy as a part of the research for Homecoming. Set in 1067 in the Fens and written in what the author calls ‘Shadow tongue ‘ a simplified old English which serves to evoke perfectly the life of ‘Buccmaster of Holland’, whose family and life have been destroyed in the savage merciless invasion. The story follows his efforts to raise a partisan gang in the forests, plotting and picking off Norman soldiers as they impose impossible hardship on those Britons left alive.
Homecoming spent some time at Messums Wiltshire, where Laurence introduced us to his latest sculpture. If you would like to watch this talk, please click here. The sculpture has now been installed at its new home in Ebbsfleet, to be enjoyed by the residents of the new housing development sited there.
The journey of The Carrier began when a ship spilt planks of wood off the coast of Suffolk. During the process of picking up the planks from the beach, Laurence Edwards began to reflect on this repetitive motion of picking up and carrying, which developed into a motif that is seen in many of his works.
The sticks that The Carrier holds have both a literal and metaphorical weight. They have an emotional physicality representative of a loaded psyche, while also appearing almost too heavy to hold. The Carrier is at the tipping point, with his cheek tenderly resting on the wood acting trying to prevent the wood having a fulcrum, his mouth is wide as if puffing with the effort to do so. The work is very evocative of the Pieta, the idea that this figure is carrying like the Madonna a dead weight that is unable to support itself.
There is much we can discern from The Carrier however the figure cannot quite be placed. He is at the tipping point, but what the tipping point is we cannot tell. Perhaps his wood will be used to build a hut and therefore he may be at the tipping point before man’s first primitive hut. The primitive hut is an architectural theory theorized by Antoine Laugier and is an allegory for man and its need for shelter in nature. Maybe The Carrier is at the tipping point before Man becomes civilized through the building of this first primitive hut. On the other hand, The Carrier could be a metaphor for the ecological tipping point that the world is now at. With the chaos of cut wood at his feet maybe we are seeing the consequences of our actions on the earth; The Carrier could be continuing this destruction or trying to rectify it.
The Carrier is stitched into the horizon line, our eye carried through the figure via the sticks he holds. The bundle itself has a history, its tired-looking rope implying it is not its first use as he strides forward to an unknown destination. Laurence Edwards has presented us with a work that demands our interaction and makes us ask questions that cannot be fully answered.
Hi there.. welcome back.. the keen eyed, the mad and the enthusiastic amongst you, will have noticed my absence on the interweb. I Decided not to bore you with my ‘fantastic’ Lockdown exploits and concentrate on having them..
You won’t see them in this post either..no, instead you will be exposed to what was happening just as it all started and where we’ve got to since we opened up again at beginning of June…. the actual stuff I made during lockdown will be saved for you in the next post!!! Its very exciting I can tell you.
So we’ll start with the Biggestthing! The Colossus is coming together in bronze, after a myriad of structural difficulties, complicated welding exams and new cranes installations, we’ve finally got to the fun bit..Well Tom has..
Here he is …
Welding the feet together..
Here’s Tom showing new ‘Expert guy’ Eddy Triplow the ropes!
Eddy is getting the hang of it.. He’s a real nice guy ‘Nice guy Eddy’
Tom’s passed loads of difficult welding exams to do this bit.. he can now make an oil rig in the north sea… This is the start of the stainless steel framework going inside the feet and legs.
Solid as a rock….
You may be a fresh visitor to my blog. This is what the Yoxman (Colossus) is going to look like.. you can see how far we’ve got to go!! Hope to be finished in the new year.
I thought i’d show you the destruction of this plaster beast, it actually influenced my covid work… the stuff i’m not showing you!
The other ED, (second of three featured tonight) hacked off the plaster outer skin to reveal the polystyrene core..stuff we hadn’t seen for two years.
Everything at this scale is an engineering problem!!
Back from the other side of the planet, a successful exhibition was had at 12 Mary’s Place Paddington Sydney, A historic gallery in Sydney recently re-opened by the ‘Defiance Gallery’ we virtually sold out with orders for editions..The show is now open in Melbourne at a brand new space .
Got a chance to travel. We got to Orange over the Blue Mountains where we were hosted by amazing Wine and food growers and met up with my sculptor friend Harrie Fascher at her wonderful studio in Oberon…
Get an idea of her work, studio and life, and the great person artist….she is…by watching this film…
she’s just won a $50,000 prize …
Lots of Horses at her studio…one was shot outside my bedroom window one bright morning.. it was old. I have to say I’m disappointed to find my photography only recorded the grimmest of things… Here’s the aftermath after I’d had breakfast and brushed my teeth…
Then we went to the ‘Bush’ to meet Stirling Dixon (Farmer and ecologist) at Taralga , part of the Tarlo National Park.. where foxes are not wanted..
Brought over by us Brits .. they wreak havoc with the indigenous mammal and bird population, small marsupials and ground nesting birds suffer terribly.. Stirling and friends attempt to keep them under control.. a fine welcome…
Here he is leading the way on a small expedition.. well across a stream….
Eucalyptus where he pointed out striations on the bark where flying squirrels sucked sap at night.
stunning interior built by himself sensous earth floor.
From left Harrie, Stirling, Anne and Jan.. who told me tales of travelling, looking for rock art in the Kimberley’s (far north Aboriginal territory).. where a wasp nest covering a rock painting had been removed and carbon dated.. and was found to be 20,000 yrs old….painting could have been 40,000..
Trees six months after a forest fire..Stirling got a new bush trained dog, that went missing on its first night.. so well-trained was it that in the morning 80 wild goats were herded at the front of the house (these and wild pigs are the scourge of the bush apparently) Stirling was able to sell them on to the local restaurants.. a lovely dish, one we delighted in that night.. good dog!
Apparently poor thing was gorged by a miffed Billy the next day…that was the end of him…
The wonderful shower..water warmed by a fire .
One of the many termite mounds reminding me of my ‘Sylvan man”
Hello… I have a new show opening at ‘Messums’ London next tuesday the 16th, and rather excitingly we cant have a party, so we’re having a zoom chat instead. Johnny Messum and I will walk around the show and discuss it… Hope you can make it, if not I’m sure it will be available to watch on the Messum’s Wiltshire website..
The work represents a new departure for me, made during the first lockdown. Plaster figures sliced up and reconstructed, who became my audience, companions even confidents!! through those lonely months.. Its a special show for me here’s the link to the free event.
And here for you delictation is a brief preview of the work, The plasters are being shown alongside the bronzes, on the same stands used in the studio, will be interesting to compare and contrast, especially now the plasters are repaired and glued together after fragmenting in the mouldmaking adding another layer to the experience.
They’re all around 60cms high…
Looking forward to seeing you there, tell all your friends!!!
In 2018 Edwards was awarded a commission by Doncaster Council to create a sculpture that celebrates the lives of those who had worked in the pits around Doncaster.
The sculpture consists of 40 portraits of former miners, whom Edwards sculpted in wax while they told their stories. These sessions were filmed by Doncaster College to form part of an online archive. In February 2021, A Rich Seam was installed in Doncaster City centre. The bronze faces sit in hand-made crevices of two 20 tonne pieces of York Stone from Huddersfield, with a central miner figure between them. 
Robert Macfarlane expressed that ‘In this unique project, Laurence Edwards has created a new kind of stone book: an extraordinary double-archive – told in bronze and told the story – of a generation and a community that is now close to disappearing.
Tadaaa….Finally after 4 years, here is Doncaster’s “A Rich Seam.” A tribute to Doncaster’s Mining community.’
Forty tonnes of York Stone arrived from Huddersfield, at the crack of dawn on Valentines day…but the crane didn’t!
So we unloaded the miner and placed him in the centre of the rather splendid Plinth.. and waited anxiously!
Like the seventh cavalry our lovely 100 tonne crane arrived at midday! Only 5 hours behind shedule. The first one had broken down, the second was too small.. so a ‘Mate’ with a crane in Leeds was asked to ‘do us a favour’… leaving an understandably irrate wife on a rather special morning!!
Our miner waited nervously as he was put into place the next day…
Reggie and George made sure the rocks sat safely, concreting, rather splendidly, between the cracks and crevices…
I did a great job at masking my confusion ‘Did I leave a box at home’??
Danny Heaton the man who took these photo’s was even co opted whilst I changed drill bits.
I’m not known for my perfectionism..
It all looks fantastic, better than I could of imagined.! In the quarry the rock looked aggresive and brutal.. but in the street it’s golden hues simmered and bounced off the buildings. It’s presence seemed to lend a sense of humanity to the street..
Whilst we were there the varieties of Yorkshire light showed themselves.
This was the sun at 3 o’clock!
The street is now being relaid with beautiful York stone slabs, lighting and seating. We are creating the information points which will guide the visitor to the forty films made to accompany each head, showing the modelling sessions and the testimony’s of each miner featured, a valuable archive set down for the future.. A big thankyou to camera shy Tom whose planning and forsight made it all happen on the day!!
The street opens at the beginning of April, so you’ll be able to visit then. We hope for a grand opening with brass bands and banners sometime this summer when the restrictions have hopefully lifted… watch this space, and thankyou for coming….
This month i’m taking you to a quarry in Yorkshire where we are carving niches for 40 miners portraits, for the public sculpture i’m making to celebrate Doncaster’s mining history.
To be installed next February.
Then you will see a Norman Soldier.. yes.. this one’s come out of the blue. A commission I recieved three years ago, (and had forgotten about) finally recieved its planning permission and suddenly a tight deadline presented itself.. alot of fun.. you’ll agree!!
Anyway enough of me.. lets go to the quarry…
‘Johnsons Wellfied’ in Huddersfield, where Freddy Morris my trusty stone carver and I stayed for ten days, cooking beautiful food (ready meals from the Co-op). Huddersfield is a truly beautiful Victorian town set on the edge of the Peak District in Yorkshire, I loved being there.. Here’s a photo Essay of the work done, black and whites by Bill Jackson, colour by me.
I think it’ll be a random set of photos, not in any particular order….
These are giant blocks of York stone, weighing about 25 tonnes each..
We drilled pilot holes first to establish where we were going to chisel..
At times it felt as if we were wandering through corridors of heads in ancient streets.
This stone recieves light so beautifully, I realised it would have been impossible to replocate this effect in any other material.
Excuse the armpit!
It became apparant early on that the heads should flow with the contours of the rock, they were set at different angles in harmony with the topography of the surfaces, bringing the viewing experience to life.
I decided to work with the scarring on the rocks, where the machinery had gashed and brutalized the surface..
This is John Davies, (above) who sadly succumbed to Covid this year, he is the first miner featured on the rocks to have passed away.
The blocks now sit and wait. A 6ft miner is being cast at the foundry and he will eventually stand between them in a newly refurbished street in Doncaster..
Next we have a 2mtre high Norman Soldier returning home to ‘Sweyns Camp’ in Ebbsfleet Kent, to a waiting family.
The sculpture is called the ‘Homecoming’ and has been commissioned to go on a site where once there was a Norman settlement, now a housing develpment.
I wanted there to be a certain anxiety as well as hope in his face and indeed, in the way he holds the ropes . I wanted to convey a man returning home after a long time away, having been through life changing experience. To a family that may also have changed.
His helmut hangs on his shield.. I love the shield, it was also a device I could use to express his emotional state, battered and scarred.
I loved hanging all the accoutrements on him, ambigous enough so the viewer could imagine what their purpose might be and what they may contain. Also making the tunic out of my old work overalls..
We start the casting after Christmas, and he’s due to be installed in April next year. If we are lucky we might be able to show him in Messum’s London space before he goes.