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Visual arts >

Put it on the slate


Fans of calligraphy and of stone sculpture will already know the names of Richard Kindersley and Tom Perkins.

It has fallen to them to take up the mantle cast by Eric Gill, which has made an art of the craft of lettering, and has imbued sculpture with a sense of Celtic mysticism.

For many, therefore, a regular trip to Wolseley Fine Arts in London is a must. For the rest of us, it is an interesting and valuable outing, to be undertaken before the 4 June.

WAF does not, perhaps, set out to be the most accessible of galleries. My electronic request for advance information went unanswered, and I was brusquely informed of the limited opening times when I telephoned.

When I arrived at the gallery, I was quizzed about why I was there, as if I were the prime suspect in the week’s local criminal investigation.

But I am glad I persisted. I am not an aficionado of quarried slate, but the variety of textures in these two dozen monoliths and menhirs, all by contemporary artists, was deeply satisfying. Welsh slate, of course; but river-green slate with a gilded indented scoop (a piece by Martin Cook), and some blue-grey slate on which Peter Furlonger has carved part of Bede’s last testament in Anglo-Saxon.

Slate is not the end of the affair: Charles Gurney used a five-foot-high piece of Bradshaw sandstone to carve his allusive scriptural exegesis of 1 Corinthians 1.23 (Stumbling-block, Offence, Obstacle, Occasion of Unbelief); and several others used wood. Roger Hall chose ebonised oak for a passage from T. S. Eliot; and a soft-edged branch of driftwood reminded Martin Wenham of the language of stone.

The diocesan advisory com-mittee for the care of churches often finds chancellors and local-authority superintendants of burial grounds unsympathetic to freestanding headstones and grave markers, on health and safety grounds. This exhibition, despite moments of bathos in some of the inscriptions chosen, may encourage them to think otherwise.

“The Standing Stone” is at Wolseley Fine Arts, 12 Needham Road, London W11, until 4 June; Wednesday to Friday 11-6, and 11-5 on Saturday.

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