ROYAL ENGINEERS, PYRAMID BUILDERS

Writing about Hew Lorimer's works (one of Carrick's pupils), Duncan McMillan drew comparisons between Carrick's Engineers plaque and the work of Renaissance artist Giotto (see next page). Carrick certainly admired and was influenced by the Renaissance artists. Like Giotto’s mourner lamenting over the body of Christ with her back turned to the viewer, Carrick's engineer writing in his note pad in the foreground is enigmatic and could be anyone... the unknown soldier. However Carrick often liked to create art which worked on different levels, offering different interpretations, and it can be misleading to analyse what is a piece of sculpture within a frame of reference based on painting. The most important theme within the composition is shape. The shrapnel helmet of this soldier forms a circle. The circle appears again in the bicycle wheel beside him and the hose of his gas mask. The scene is filled with lines, cubes and arches. The dominant feature is the triangle or pyramid, indeed the overall composition of the work is based on the pyramid. In the left foreground a pyramid of three engineers plan the project. In the right background a second pyramid of three engineers reach to the height of the scene as they hoist up a section of girder while building a bridge which is itself constructed of a skeletal framework of pyramids. Carrick is using the language of the Engineers, the language of geometry, to represent them as the pyramid builders of the modern age.

engineers clay

The relief is also a fine example of Carrick's understanding of the importance of location and the use of light and shade. Most of the sculpture in the National War Memorial is in deep relief, the interior of the chapel is dark and heavy black shadows are cast on the other works in a charioscuro effect, creating a sombre atmosphere. In complete contrast to this Carrick preferred to work in shallow relief, avoiding the shadows and darkness of neighboring works. Carrick's panels glow in the subdued light from Douglas Strachan's stained glass windows in the East Chapel. The soft light pervades the scene and plays over odd features which become highlighted such as the telegraphist's fingers. The warm rich patina of the bronze seems to radiate even in this low light. The result is a rejection of terribilita and a more spiritually uplifting image encouraging a more positive, life affirming reaction from the visitor.

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