The Road Not Taken
The title for this sculpture is taken from the Robert Frost poem of the same name and written in 1916 shortly after he moved to England from his native USA. The poem has interesting ambiguities and reflections on life, depending on what stage in your life you read it.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
By Robert Frost.
The poem comments on notions of choice and declares that choice is inevitable, but you never know the consequences of choice until you have lived it. Interestingly, the poem speaks of a “yellow” wood, revealing that it was written in the Autumn. Yellow is a colour that represents happiness and contentment, along with hope, friendship and perseverance. In this sense, the poem is perhaps talking about notions of inspiration.
My sculpture is a homage to this poem and a reflection of the choices people make in life, The use of navigational forms in my sculpture is a metaphor for direction and locale. It is about where we are as people, both emotionally and geographically: it is also about where we see ourselves, and how we are perceived.
The duality of both the poem and the sculpture are about making decisions, (human motivation), but also about the art of indecision.
The Road Not Taken has sprung from this interest in the work made in Beijing and I have
worked with the same stone-carving factory to make this new sculpture for Ordos City.
Working with the same team has meant that there has been a
welcome continuity of understanding as a great many
communication problems were ironed-out with my first departure
in using natural stone in 2008.
The forms of the sculpture are derived from a variety of navigation
instruments, which are integral to my interest in the “Found
Object” tradition in contemporary fine art practice, as well as
objects that elucidate on the innovative capacity of humankind. I
have amassed a number of drawings of a variety of such sciencebased
influences, gathered from museums and archive collections
across the globe.
The early phase of this commission was through a personal
contact I have in China who alerted me to this opportunity. The
sculpture in Olympic Park Beijing had received widespread media
attention, so the commissioner Prof Zhang He was aware of my
work and invited me to submit a proposal for this new International
Sculpture Park. The starting point of this new Sculpture Park was
to involve the commissioning of 30 invited artists from across the
The making of the sculpture
The atmosphere of the workshop where the sculpture was made,
in Beijing, is quite remarkable: the scale of the resource is
monumental and the energy of the Chinese workforce makes for a
stimulating environment. Noise and dust intermingle with the
frenetic activity of a workforce marshalled to specific tasks
dependent on their skills. Colossal saws scythe through gigantic
blocks of granite and elsewhere highly skilled carvers finesse
designs that demand the most dextrous of handling. Mr Chen is
the owner of the workshop and his bellowing tones can be heard
throughout the factory as he cycles around monitoring the
progression of works.
The carvers worked from a scale model I had produced in London and were busy scaling
up the sculpture, when to my surprise, the suggestion was made to make the sculpture in
a unique (but as I later found out, tried and tested) method that involved cladding granite
to a steel armature. I had initially thought that the sculpture would be made in sections and
then resin-pinned together. However, Mr Chen had made
this suggestion and showed me examples of other
monumental artworks that were made using a similar
method. As the attached pictures demonstrate, the
framework for the sculpture was simple, but the steel
armature had to be carefully constructed in order to align
each section to the granite panels. It was then a question of
fitting each granite slab to the armature. The critical part of
the work was making sure that the edges of each granite
slab were perfect, so that seam lines were discreet. As the
main body of the work progressed, it was time to selectq
another contrasting granite for details of the sculpture: these were carved from solid block
and then resin anchored into place onto the main body of the sculpture.
From here in the UK I now have the problem of making sure the sculpture will be located
correctly in the space where it will be exhibited. This will engender a lot of email
correspondence with my friends in China to make sure that the orientation of the sculpture
is correct. Hopefully the initial maquette, and advice so far, will ensure the success of this
final phase of the project.