Header Image—detail of Mercury Window

The Grail Fountain

Grail Fountain full

The Grail Fountain was my first sculpture commission after leaving college in 1978. It was created for the Rowan Tree Shop and Café in Bristol in support of the new Steiner School. I did some relandscaping and building work on the site and started work on the Fountain in the summer of 1982.

I made a trip to London and bought some stone carving tools from Alec Tiranti and Co. and set up a rough table in the back patio of number 9. I worked on a couple of maqettes just to get myself into the swing again. College had been a long time ago and I needed practice.

One day the stone for the fountain-head arrived at the Rowan Tree, a two-foot cube of grey/green Portland stone that weighed one tonne. I manipulated it with rollers (scaffolding poles) across the courtyard to a position on the left of the building just out from a dilapidated shed where I could work it. Block and tackle raised it onto a temporary plinth, a canopy, a folding ex ice cream seller’s, provided cover.

The first task was to drill a substantial hole through the stone, allowing the water to ‘jet’out. I hired a heavy- duty masonry drill and bored a one inch in diameter hole. Another piece of heavy machinery, a pneumatic chisel allowed me to shape the five sides fairly-quickly. This was all mere preparation, the real work of shaping and defining the forms could only begin now. My starting point was the idea of the ‘Grail’, that intangible presence that weaves mysteriously through the Arthurian and the Parzival legends.

Maria Schindler in her book, ‘Europe: a Cosmic Picture’, embeds the sickle moon and the sun disk into the geography of Europe and the Middle East. The spread of Arabism (Islamic inspired culture) forms a kind of moon shape, one horn penetrating the Iberian Peninsula viaNorth Africa, the other reaching across the Bosporus from Turkey. Christian civilization is personified by the sun symbol and radiates out from Central Europe. The sun is surrounded bythe twelve ‘stars’ or constellations, each one embodying a different ‘Nation Identity’. The moon creates a vessel into which the sun pours itself. There is a kind of interchange of energy, heartunites with brain. I believe this symbol is also found in Hindu and Buddhist lore.

We owe Arabism a great debt. Western Civilization would not have received the impulsion that moved it towards abstract thought, science and technology without it.Christianity had lapped up the ideas of Plato with great enthusiasm, but Aristotle, the father of modern science and his foremost pupil, was all but forgotten. It was the Arabs who translated his work into Arabic and then eventually, towards the end of the Middle Ages, Latin copies appeared in Europe. St Thomas Aquinas (1225- 1274 AD) united the clear scientific logic ofAristotle with the love and devotion of Christianity.

Thus, it was that I tried to create a rounded ‘Sun Shape’ at the top of the stone and a ‘Lunar Bowl Shape’ at the base. I wanted the form to work all the way round and repeated it five times around the stone. I used the number five because it’s dynamic and is related to the human being. The process of chiselling and polishing took about three months.

The Grail Fountain
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