Cove Park, Argyll & Bute, Scotland.
June – September 2014.
“This work begins with a structure that recreates John Kibble’s first version of what is now known as the Kibble Palace: the iconic glasshouses at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens in the west end of the city. This early version, commissioned by Kibble for his house at nearby Coulport, was extended before it was sailed down the Clyde to Glasgow in 1873 and where Kibble intended it would act as a ‘Crystal Art Palace’, hosting concerts and talks and housing sculptures.
In addition to this new folly are 3 ruin sites, made primarily from sand and water and based upon elements reminiscent of Victorian sandstone architecture. Cumulatively, these sites will eventually dissolve into the ground (with some extra help from the wind, rain, sun, cows and sheep). As these forms degrade, the coins, bones and ceramic elements within these structures will reveal themselves, acting as an archaeological site in reverse.
To complement each sculpture Alex has sourced poems and prose written by a number of our former literature residents (Polly Clark, Joe Dunthorne, W N Herbert and Nicola White). These works all refer to the specific character of Cove Park as either an outstanding natural landscape, a place of contemplation or in its proximity to Coulport, the site since 1963 of the Royal Navy Armaments Depot (built on the original site of Kibble’s home and conservatory).
The patrons of the title are in one sense historical: the Victorian industrialists who built their summer homes around the Rosneath peninsula, having made their fortunes through colonial trade. This is alluded to through the original Kibble Palace, the sand sculptures of elements from ruined Victorian buildings and the inclusion in these of coins collected from Commonwealth countries. But there is also a reference to the residency as a particular system of patronage; a system, especially in the case of Cove Park, that does not necessarily prescribe the making of objects but offers space to reflect, develop and encourage exchange between artists, art forms and audiences.”
Taken from the guidebook that accompanies ‘The Patrons’.
Download the guidebook.
Mr. John Kibble of Coulport
Smoke rises from the woods at Ardentinny.
Was it a day still as this, John, that you cycled on the loch?
Shore to shore on the turn of the tide.
Inventor, you were a man for marvels.
I see you incongruously top-hatted,
Pedalling hard to keep momentum through the swell.
Spindrift caught in your beard,
Plumes of water rising from your somehow-floating tires.
If the horse had pulled your camera to the shore at Peaton Layo,
You might have captured your fantastic voyage.
Why make a camera big as a room, John,
If not to show us all we missed?
Those wild Victorian days. So quiet here now.
I want to go back to Coulport as it was,
To look up through the revolving roof of your observatory
and see the red orbit of Mars,
To look up through the radiating spokes of your conservatory
and see the blinding sun.
A pantheon of light in a web of iron.
Another missing photo: The glass palace afloat,
Moving down the water, flashing farewells to the hills.
Your gift to the city, O lucky Glasgow!
And coming the other way, something black.
A machine beyond your ken, John.
Your mansion is gone, but beneath your gardens
Sleep such wonders would make your head reel;
Oppenheimer’s centrifuge, Kali’s whirl, The Great Wind.
The things that men have wrought.
A pantheon of light in a web of iron.
Nicola White, 2014
Two Views of a Submarine
The loch is a factory where darkness
is welded and sparked into life,
sent up to breathe like a whale,
the water shattering from its back.
Ferries cross in shiny home-comings,
the loch trembles with a soft pulse
and an echo is sent to live in my skin.
It is a call to witness a miracle:
my wish in its flat black hat
ballooning out of the waves.
When I imagined exactly this
tilt and drift into the dark
I thought I would go mad for you,
that I would forgive everything.
But as I slowly press these walls
like Alice in her Wonderland
who was a child, and simply
reached for whatever caught her eye
and then suddenly did not fit her life,
I know that I would give you up
instantly for oxygen, or hope.
My murmured bargain creaks:
it is being considered, deeply.
I close my eyes and my wish
is granted: I wake open-mouthed,
drenched, cold, in flickering air.
From Take Me With You, Bloodaxe Books, 2006
The setting sun picked out trees on the shore. Highland cows flicked their fringes in
golden light. Later, I watched the moon rise from the marshland, pouring silver into the
lake. There is nothing more lethal to creativity than a beautiful view. I was at a desk in a
room overlooking Loch Long, completely unable to write.
But luckily for me, our nation’s nuclear defence soon came to the rescue. Trident
submarine slid through the water with tugboats at its flanks and speedboats front and
back, cruising at the speed of a funeral cortege. I had time to take in its radar-absorbent
paint, a reflection-less black. I walked down to the shore and from there, saw the military
base further down the loch, a brutal concrete bunker scooped out of the hillside. When I
went back to my desk, I was ready to begin.
From Mount London: Ascents in the Vertical City, edited by Tom Chivers and
Martin Kratz, Penned in the Margins, 2014
(for Polly and Julian)
The rain would like to make us all Chinese.
I climb the hill with my umbrella fanned,
through bracken drooping like a sleeve’s brocade
where hands with long quartz nails have been withdrawn.
My feet are fussy as a scholar’s clogs
as I traverse the wire-suspended bridge:
two studded planks above the thickened burn
that imitates a southern love song heard
last night, and all the grasses wave the pearls
they’ve caught in their sharp tentacles. I stop
and look back at the loch, the dark felt hills
beyond: a centipede of mist crawls down
and, waving its antennae, starts to cross
the water, while a rainbow’s banner hangs
from trees, and on Loch Long the character
for ‘submarine’ tears in its wake.
W. N. Herbert
From Bad Shaman Blues, Bloodaxe Books, 2006