Are you especially interested in history when it is rooted in a sense of place?
I particularly enjoy researching local and family histories.
Historical references can be a useful means of integrating sculpture and location.
When I was working in Andorra, archaeologists were excavating primitive Romanesque baptismal fonts. These discoveries together with the history of the Cathars and the alchemists of mediaeval Andorra, were to become integral to the installation – A Pagan Place – that I made there.
Historic and cultural references are similarly alluded to in sculptures made on the island of Guadeloupe in the French Indies – in that case, the calamitous effect of colonization and slavery; in Ecuador – pre-Columbian symbolic geometry, and so on. A Full Moon in March links the poet W.B. Yeats and Japanese Noh drama. Eena-Meena-Mina-Mo is a timber construction not made for a particular place. But here too there are oblique references.
How did you come by that curious title?
It is believed to be something to do with sacrificial ritual and is perhaps the only surviving sound from the language of the Druids. It is probable that the phrase signifies the first four numerals – 1,2,3,4.
Your steles, in contrast, are less accessible and very personal?
They are not made for anyone or with an audience in mind. Access or entrance point is confined to a response to material. They are meditative works. They are almost invariably worked directly in wood.
Do you see yourself as a craftsman?
Love of material, the handling and treatment of material are crucial to my work.
Good workmanship is an immense pleasure. I particularly enjoy the timber-vaulted roofs sometimes discovered in old barns or churches; I enjoy dry-stone walls, hand carved headstones, a chair that “stands” well – objects made from traditional skills, finely honed over generations.
I regard my upbringing in the country as having been a great privilege: people who work the land in all kinds of weather are like craftsmen in a way – certainly, sensibility to texture is developed through physical contact. The same could be said about density and other very sculptural qualities. However, regarding sculpture, I would not consider craftsmanship an end in itself.
To return to the steles?
The steles owe everything and nothing to all that went before them. As De-creation 111 and De-creation 1V represented a coming together of diverse threads in the late 1970s, so the steles are a distillation of thirty years of sculpture.
If I were obliged to represent myself by only one piece of work, I would take a stele – probably one made of horse chestnut, a “semi-native” introduced into Ireland at the time of the Normans.