Ever since I first happened upon these stones in a Cambridge courtyard, I've been wondering what they are and who sculpted them. And now I've finally found out.
There are three of these stones:
• a round fat boulder, roughly hewn;
• a tall stele, jagged and elegant;
• and a low flat rock, like a gravestone waiting for an inscription.
It looks thin when viewed sideways,
The stones sit in a small garden, tucked in between the Faculty of Classics and the Faculty of Asian and Middle-Eastern Studies (aka FAMES) on the University of Cambridge's Sidgwick Site campus.
I asked myself: Are they three Oriental sages, meditating on nature and death?
Or are they riffs on the theme of classical statues, more ancient and unfinished than the sophisticated kore smiling at us from the nearby lobby of the Classics Faculty?
But no! Surprise!
They are not art at all!
Thanks to the amazing detective work of Mary Munro of the Classics Faculty, I found out the following:
In 2000-2010, a small extension for the Classics building was constructed, and as part of this, the grass plot between Classics and FAMES was landscaped. FAMES in particular was very keen on a garden, and it was decided to adopt a minimalist approach: a flower border, a single tree, and three boulders -- "rather reminiscent of a Japanese garden", says Mary Munro.
Colleagues of the Faculty visited a stone yard in Fenstanton (possibly Bannold) in the spring of 2010 and chose:
• one large boulder of Scottish granite
• one pillar of Welsh slate
• and a 'stele' of Western Irish quartz.
What do you know? They are rocks! Not sculptures!
Which is why it was decided not to include them in the Cambridge Sculpture Trails.
But what is the difference?
Do you look at them differently, now that you know you can never find a plaque with the sculptor's name on it?
Do rocks, as soon as they are arranged into a pattern by human hands, take on meanings associated with art?