Spoken responses to the campus sculpture trail
During 2020, three fourth year undergraduate students in Film and Media recorded short sound files.
These were their own very personal responses to sculptural works on campus created by Hironori Katagiri. The three students are Subrina Ward who is specialising in scriptwriting, Matthew Armour in documentary production and Graham Cameron in digital media.
I think that’s perhaps the greatest thing about any form of artistic expression. While one person may look at a painting or a sculpture and think “well what a lot of nonsense”. Someone else will be completely absorbed by it, may even find that it resonates with them in a way that they never even thought possible.
University describes its art collection as something that welcomes everyone into a creative environment that inspires and enriches. One piece of art certainly had this effect on me, not in a way I imagined it would, but I’ve noticed the inspiration seems to come in many forms and often at the strangest of times.
2019 had not started off well for me, my aunt and my uncle were both very sick. One had cancer, the other one had blood clots in his legs – a complication from diabetes. As the bells brought in the new year, I was then burdened with the news my father also had cancer. I tried to keep my focus, best I could. Crack on with the work. Afterall, it was third year – nearly finished. Then March came around, within the space of 10 days all 3 of them were dead. So, I put my head down. I cracked on with the work. Strangely grateful for the distraction because at the time when the family needed to be closer together – we couldn’t have been any further apart. So, when September rolled around, however, and 4th year began things really started to manifest in my head. It was weighed down by an overwhelming feeling of guilt coupled with intense depression. Getting out of bed was impossible, never mind doing my work. Then things really started to get on top of me during October and I applied for the years leave of absence. Even so I had it stuck in my head that “I’m done. And I won’t be coming back”.
I decided to take a walk around the campus to clear my head, say goodbye. Stopped at this one sculpture – ‘Nostalgia’ it was called. Part of the university’s range of Japanese sculptures. Single block of red granite rock which had been split into 40 pieces and reconstructed back into its original shape. Naturally, I scoffed. Let out a little laugh and I went home.
But later on that evening I caught myself thinking about it, not sure why. When I was looking into what it all meant I was fascinated to read the idea behind the sculpture. It’s that once the stone is split the action was irreversible. But the pieces could be put back in place so that it becomes whole again. I thought about where I was in my life, things were a mess. Dad was dead. The family weren’t really dealing with it or with each other very well. I lost my job. I split up with my girlfriend. Things literally were in pieces.
Somehow, that encounter with that wee assembled piece of granite, it made me realise that things might not go back together like they did before. Time certainly has a way of changing things. But you can try, you can keep going.
Just before Christmas time I went back to student services to let them know that I was okay. Been out of contact with them for some time. Before I left, I went back to the sculpture, but this time I took a lot more effort to appreciate what the artist was trying to say through his expression. Now, I’m not trying to say that this single encounter ignited an interest in art, I still cling to the idea that the vast majority of it is pretentious nonsense. But I found a new appreciation for the time, care and attention that was put into this. And an appreciation of how the artist had afforded me to have this moment of resonance that helped me get things back on track.
It’s an experience I’m extremely grateful for and I’m also extremely grateful to be at an institution like Stirling. And on a course like digital media where artistic expression is not only welcomed – it’s encouraged. My coursework may still be of a nuisance to me, that’ll never change because I’m a lazy person. But I now see it as an opportunity for me to try and say something.
Deconstructed, carefully destroyed and then reformed.
You can walk around it, you can touch it, you can also listen to the sound it makes in situ. You can even look through it.
This is sculpture 8 on your trail – ‘Nostalgia’.
You are standing in the midst of a formidable piece of expression, as Katigiri puts it “once a stone is split the action is irreversible”.
This block of Scottish red granite was split into over 40 pieces and reconstructed in the original shape.
Observe now the inner cavity where the block has been cut and polished into an irregular sphere creating the illusion of a single body of rock.
This is the main idea of the sculpture it plays with the physicality and character of the natural stone. As part of the japan 2001 festival, ‘Nostalgia’ was formed out of the desire of Hironori Katagiri to convey what nature does on its own - destroy and regenerate.
Much like human reflection and recollection of both history and time in one place.
Now rising up out of the earth, ‘Nostalgia’ beckons the geological formation of the Ochils which flanks the university campus. The cracks and fissures, the open chasms, and holes. Yes, long tubular holes that run through the rock are noticed if you bend down.
Stand back now and observe the spinal reference of the structure. Before you leave take one last look. In the centre Katagiri does not refine the entire surface of the sphere. You are invited to touch and recall that there is versatility in nature the smooth and rounded the natural and connected.
21 June 1985, sculpted out of Scottish red granite by Heronori Katagiri, is one of 12 pieces on the Japanese sculpture trail here at the University of Stirling. The sculpture trail consists of works created by Katagiri and his Scottish wife Kate Thompson. This piece is one of Katagiri’s favourites. Being one of the first sculptures he created upon his arrival in Scotland in the mid-80s to work at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Aberdeenshire.
His surroundings in Aberdeen – nicknamed the Granite City – would have given him ample inspiration for the material of this piece. Although, the form the sculpture would take was dictated by its main theme – memory. This theme is what compelled Katagiri to cut into the core and alter its appearance before returning the altered piece of granite to the cut rock. An imperfect memory reintegrated into its original state.
As it sits today, the image of the granite rock sculpture sitting against the edge of the walk may of woke memories for Katagiri of his childhood: playing on the rocky cliffs of the Karakuwa Peninsula, gazing out to the ocean searching for the boats of his father’s fishing fleet.
Katagiri’s abstract works are designed to invite exploration of subtle sensations. And it is his hope, the viewers indulge their senses, stimulate their imagination, and their memories to ultimately create and articulate their own stories from his pieces.
So please, drink in the form of the sculpture. Run your fingers along the rock face as the smooth middle transitions out to the serrated edge. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and drift away into the memories.