VISIT TO AVEBURYS WORLD HERITAGE SITE
NATIONAL TRUST, Wiltshire
After having a long fascination with Neolithic history, in particular Neolithic monuments, I visited Avebury this weekend. The standing, vertical stones of Avebury, encase a small village situated within the arrangement of stones. Uniquely the only village within an ancient stone arrangement and the largest stone circle in the world.
The standing stones, reminiscent of Ian McKeevers paintings, stand tall, obedient and mysterious. The verticality of the stones, dominating the viewer is parallel to McKeevers painting series ‘Twelve Standing’. The paintings impetus stated by McKeever, put quite simply, was the human form. A person standing. When meeting the stones, similar to my experience of viewing McKeevers paintings @ Hauser & Wirth Somerset, you are met with the sense of being in the company of another physical being, an unknown but familiar presence. The terminology ‘menhir’ (from Brittonic languages: maen or men, “stone” and hir or hîr, “long”) resonates with this analogy.
The stones act as barriers, thresholds of space. Guiding your path from 4,500 years ago, built in 2850 BC and 2200 BC. Acting as territorial markers. A monumental, distinct human imprint on their land.
A location of scared landscape, sanctified and man-made spaces, the site, still home to contemporary pagan rituals, has an eerie atmosphere. Questioning the origin of the stones, their placement and human connection. However, there is still an odd sense of security and familiarity. The stones harmonic arrangement was believed to bring good fortune against natural phenomena and aid the wellbeing of the local people. The stones and their subsequent rituals and cycles offered stability and regularity to lives that must have seemed vulnerable, under threat and chaotic.
The stones also conjure up questions of the social and engineering skills involved in the construction and settlement of the stones. Where they used or intended for landmarks, exterior architecture or perhaps could they serve a more domestic function?
Standing stones, markers of unfulfilled time. Constants, however the surface of the stone reveal a dynamic contrast to this permanence, showing the weathered surface of the stones and life, with growing moss suggesting the slow consumption and layering of the surface.
Many stones of a similar period were also markers to the sun, moon and celestial cosmos. “As the stones stood still to the familiar backdrop of the sky, the seemingly constant or ‘fixed’ stars, were moving against their permanent stones- revealing an understanding for the passage of time.”
I hope for this research and fascination of Neolithic history, site, light, and rituals to inform my next body of work. Using photography, video, sound and sketches acting as preliminary studies informing other mediums and larger scale works.