During much of 1997, a ‘studio’ was formed from a sheet of plastic lashed to a number of trees in a birch grove surrounded by fields at Catchmays Court and the sculptor, Matt Baker, could be found carving away for hours a day at a sizeable chunk of reddish ‘forest stone’ which had been chosen and imported from a nearby quarry that has been in operation since Roman times.
The figure that eventually emerged from this stone can be seen in all these photographs. All the stones that surround him had been there for probably hundreds of years. Some were left just as they were but many others were moved, by Matt and various helpers, so as to form the low walls of an enclosure with the figure more or less in its centre.
The figure can be interpreted in numerous ways. He is clearly emerging from the ground itself and the element that partly envelops his naked body can be read, depending on the angle of your vision, as a piece of material, a hollow tree or a solid rock.
In the words of the sculptor, While in the the process of becoming and emerging from its surroundings, a figure is seen in the process of beginning a gesture. The weight of the body is focussed behind the right hand, as the hand intends a sweep outwards and around to echo the shape of the enclosure.
Just as the figure is becoming, from out of the folds of the place, so he is conjuring the folding from the outset.
The sheep may or may not have a sense of all this but what they DO know is that ‘creative’ hand is absolutely fantastic for rubbing the part of their back that they simply cannot reach!
For that was the starting point of this post for me. It was agreed with Matt, from the very beginning, that the sheep who roam these fields should be very much part of the sculpture . . . hence its name. The fact is that cohorts of the creatures come and go as the seasons go by and they all seem to develop different behaviour patterns . . . particularly as to where they go to get out of the wind. Some cluster around the base of a Western Red Cedar, and some in the corner at the foot of a large Pin Oak.
This morning, however, blisteringly cold in the wind but with bright sun, the whole troop was using the sculpture’s area in just the way that had been planned for. I just had to go for my camera!