SPEARHEAD

lochawe

Carrick’s first war memorial at Lochawe demonstrates the difference which often existed between his works and those of so many other sculptors. The most striking feature is Carrick's powerful carving, he had developed a simple, forceful style which avoided clutter, respecting the integrity of the stone as a material and allowing something of its quality to remain with the work.

Sculptors of the Victorian and Edwardian eras have been described as 'gentlemen modellers'. They were often the product of the public school, their education steeped in the classics, in Latin and Greek, which partly explains the proliferation of winged victories and other allegorical figures which are found in so many war memorials. They modelled in soft clay, their model then being cast in plaster. This plaster maquette was then passed on to the stone mason who would make an exact copy of the model using a pointing machine to carve the work in stone. The upshot of this was that the creative process became entirely divorced from the final execution; and from the final medium, the stone itself. The results can sometimes be seen in the many monuments which feature figures of highland soldiers carved in granite in Scotland. The highly skilled masons working with pneumatic tools and diamond tipped drills were capable of copying the finest detail from the clay original even including the pattern of tartan on the solder's kilt. With so much detail the stone itself is robbed of its integrity and unless you stand close enough to see the grain and individual crystals you might mistake the granite for Plaster of Paris.

Carrick’s work was also marked by its sensitivity to site. The sculptors of the period largely confined themeselves to their studios in Edinburgh and Glasgow, modelling figures and exhibiting them at the annual exhibitions. Architects and war memorial committees would travel to visit these exhibitions and commission the artist to execute their models in full scale for their town or village memorial. By contrast Carrick's business papers show that he visited each town personally, touring the proposed sites for the memorial with the committee members, discussing their ideas and vision and giving advice. The results of this approach can be seen at places like Lochawe. The quality of the stone is not only allowed to remain in Carrick’s work, it is an integral part of it, creating a powerful monolithic memorial which resonated with the standing stones which stood nearby. The pedestal is modelled on a highland cairn. The cairn, a pyramidal pile of boulders, is a traditional method of commemoration or waymarking in the Scottish Highlands and it was fitting that Carrick should incorporate it in a Highland memorial. The Lochawe pedestal was constructed of boulders gathered from the slopes of Ben Cruachan, the mountain which towers above the village.

Lochawe also demontrates Carrick's ability to blend various traditions into one single powerful image. The posture of the soldier is of interest. His right leg and arm are placed forward, creating a stance which appears at first viewing rather contrived. It is loosely based on the many Kouros figures of Greek sculpture, these statues of young men from the archaic period seem to have originally been associated with the god Apollo but later came to be used more widely to commemorate victory or as funereal monument. The pose of the Kouros has been slightly adapted however with the left arm pulled up against the waist which has the effect of greatly narrowing the figure, presenting a sharp, almost blade like frontage. Spearhead like shapes are commonly found in the standing stones of the Highlands and Islands. It might seem fanciful to suggest that Carrick is portraying the soldier figuratively as a kind of primitive spearhead but he also employed a spearhead concept with his figurative group at Oban (see Oban) and it is interesting to consider that after World War II one of Carrick’s pupils, Tom Whalen, submitted an entry for the proposed Commando War Memorial at Spean Bridge which was a sculpture of a giant primitive flint spearhead to commemorate the men who were at the cutting edge of the battle.

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