Artist Statement

Twelve years of stone carving have brought me through my apprenticeship to a point where I begin to understand the balance between concept, material and process. The learning of an ancient and secret craft amazes and excites me.

To know that I am connected to that person who first flaked a blade from stone, who drilled a hole through stone, who incised a line on a stone; to understand the genealogy: that is the stone line.

To realise the process of metamorphosis in carving a stone by natural ways and by magical forces; to see the process of metamorphism whereby base rocks and minerals are transformed into stones of great beauty; to understand the relief of the land eroded by the elements: that is the stone line.

My early work was almost entirely in nephrite jade. The New Zealand jade fields yield material equal in quality to any other source in the world. I was lucky to accumulate a wide variety of high quality jades before the proliferation of the greenstone souvenir in the 1980's saw large quantities of jades from the very best alluvial sources reduced to crude and meaningless trinkets.

The continued exploitation of New Zealand's most special and unique resource horrified me and my introduction in 1980 to metasomatised argillite, the tools material of the Maori Pakohe, initiated a new awareness in my work. Argillites, together with metasomatised basalt and greywacke, jasper and granite became my main working stones, and as I began to appreciate their inherent beauty so jade was raised higher in my esteem making it most rare and precious in its intractable green beauty.

It still is and always will be spiritually demanding for me to work jade. Most of the uncut stones that I have collected are far too unique for me to ever consider carving. They are the true forms, the true surfaces to which I aspire.

The use of metal, especially copper, and argillite began in 1981 in a response to a vaguely remembered discovery as a child of a free and inexhaustible supply of copper from plumbing offcuts. This memory, together with the realisation that argillite, (serpentine) and copper occur naturally together led me to recombine these elements by constructions in the knowledge that the ageing of the copper and the stone would finally weld them back together in an artefact.

Inclusions of glass in the stones are a result of my understanding of then processes of sawing and drilling. To cut a stone in half, into a slice or a block; to render a stone into some precise predetermined form is a powerful force of division, so that these pieces are my attempts to recombine that which has been divided, the transparent parting of the solid, seeing into the heart intact.

My endeavours to control the powerful modern tools available has led to a refinement and minimalisation in my work, the simplicity of the carvings belieing the processes involved, bringing into balance the elements of concept, material and process.

These carvings are a small part of the stone lines that go back and forwards from us, leaving us always now. Towards a new millennia the stone lines come and go.

To those people who have brought my carvings, supported me as a craftsperson in the fragile economy of New Zealand; to the staff of the National Museum of New Zealand and the Auckland Institute and Museum for bringing together these carvings for exhibition; to the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council for their financial support; to the people who have loaned their carvings for this exhibitions; to Ann Robinson; my gratitude.

John Edgar
May, 1989