Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Slate of the Art


The story so far. Would be Banksy-London 'artist'  Jack Murray-travels to North Wales to...well...let Jack Murray explain...

 I went on a trip with a couple of other chaps to Snowdonia in North Wales to seek out an abandoned, mountain slate quarry, that was closed over 50 years ago. We found it, and it was definitely worth the 6 hour drive. A vast network of old tunnels, metal structures, workers huts, gravel pits and waterfalls looping through the side of a mountain is the best way to describe it. I brought some paint with me and dropped a little something at the highest point we got to. In the future I want to go back and paint site specific, 20ft plus, murals on some of the rock faces in the old quarry pits. Some people will cry and say I’ve spoiled the place and others will say it’s amazing but that’s just life.

The key quote in this being.... 'Some people will cry and say I’ve spoiled the place and others will say it’s amazing but that’s just life.' Indeed. In fact over on UKC a predictable backlash quickly fermented with comments ranging from.'-He should be filled in.'..'He's a cock, he's a cock, he's a cock' to 'we should all go and daub paint all over his "art", it's already shit so we can't go wrong.'

I have to say that although I'm in general agreement that North Wales' s industrial heritage should not be a blank canvas for metropolitan art tourists, as someone who considers himself an artist of sorts, I'm interested in true artists finding ways to utilize the natural-or in the case of the slate quarries-unnatural environment in a truly creative way. Of course local climber artist John Redhead has used the quarries for his sound works. Recording the natural sounds of the quarry to recreate a 'musique concrete' soundscape and using the quarries cabans as visual backdrops. Of course, talking of JR. The slate brouhaha brings to mind the Indian Face saga where he painted a small piece in acrylics on the rock scar he had accidentally exposed. The 'Philistine backlash'- as he might have called it- was as predictable as the UKC reaction.

For Jack Murray, his response to the climbing fraternity was to quite accurately point out that the slate quarries are the result of massive human exploitation. The effective rape of a natural green mountainside in the interests of profit. Of course climbers themselves are impacting on this industrial landscape through their very presence and through the placement of in-situ bolts and tat.'s not a simple question of environmentally aware climbers..many of whom have absolutely no problem with massive wind farms truly fucking up the natural environment...and some arrogant urban creative.

John Redhead's Indian Face piece

Perhaps in this instance we should take a leaf out of the book of two of our best artistic utilises of the natural environment, Andy Goldsworthy and Blaenau Ffestiniog's David Nash. Two artists who have both brilliantly exploited..if that's the right word..the natural world and if you can improve on nature-a philosophical question perhaps-then I would suggest they have often succeeded.

To quote John Redhead from my Guardian piece about him a couple of months ago..'Is sport the enemy of art?'...Hope not.
John Appleby


  1. Man it's a difficult scenario this one, for all the reasons you state, but the biggest point you raise, that so unopposed by many climbers and artists, is the issue of imposition upon others. One turbine in itself is not necessarily ugly but literally every hillside, valley and ocean horizon being covered with them as planned, is both ugly and horrific. It's the fact that no matter how varied the viewpoints, everyone will be forced to see them like it or not.

    So it is with 'artwork' good or bad, painted in a permanent way in a public place. Let's just say that the majority find this guys work just plain poor, and visually offensive, why should we all be forced to see it just because he feels he has the right to do it ? If he is just painting one art work, then maybe there is a place within this huge man made scar (which sort of has an awesome historical, even epic beauty of it's own, surprisingly) but if he intends to paint across every rock face, visible not just within the quarry but also from the hillsides opposite, then I'd argue that it is simply not on. It's almost an arrogance for him to assume that his work even has calibre that everyone will appreciate, and in the HUGE difference between him and Nash & Goldsworthy, is that the latter two artists produce work that is temporary, subtle and muted, recorded often using photography, for others to see, as the works will disintegrate over time.

    Let's just say that another artist decides to throw a ton of red & white paint over Crib Goch, to make a 'statement' about English visitors over-running Welsh hills (or whatever artist statement they concoct) would THAT be acceptable in the name of art ?

    Most artists have to fight hard to find gallery space and representation for their work, many will get turned down simply because it's rubbish, so there is a sense that for some,the lack of gallery representation doesn't mean they can choose the outdoors as a gallery for their weakness as artists, and in the meantime negatively influence the surroundings enjoyed by so many (man made or not)

    In conclusion, much as I respect the idea of artists using different ways to put messages and ideas across, when in a public arena, the art HAS to be temporary OR voted upon by the people, not simply imposed by one person on many.

  2. No different really to when Stevie Haston drew a huge cock n balls on the Dervish slab - or is it? Had Stevie 'earned' the right by his ascent of The Dervish? My 'art' left no imprint, it recreated the landscape and posed questions and the sounds from the quarry inspired folk to go there and drum up their own banshee! One has to determine the integrity (often ego) for such endeavour in a public space - if the dialogue is just reactionary or fuck you why not, then it sucks and nobody wins... My acrylic on the Indian Face had been 'paid for' and was temporary (it would wash off in the first winter). I am all for the individual confronting the corporate oppressors - and the quarry is owned by a foreign corporate that sells electricity, ice creams and a range of souvenirs and the bullshit should be challenged- so what is your message Jack?

    Saying all that, my exhibition at the Electric Mountain in Llanberis (poetry, sketches and sounds) brought outcry from the local councillors who wanted it banned because their romantic view of the 'quarry historical' was questioned...(it was later argued to be a significant work of art) - it would be interesting to see what the local councillors think the same of the 'graffiti' by Jack Murray - just the flip side to Colonists Out graffiti! If the Snowdon Park object because it can be seen from Snowdon - then - I say, you can see the Snowdon train garbage and the outrage of the summit restaurant from the quarries...! It's all a mess!

  3. my perspective: i am a climber. i am from the area. i have spent many hours in these quarries and they have carved their own impressions on me. i am a person who spray paints stencils in public places. i have a project in mind that i want to do in the quarries. i live in canada, so it's not happening any time soon. I agree with glyn and john.

    there is so much room to bark-opinion on this issue. but the basics are: the quarries have evolved they're own beauty and majesty. it's a place where, not long ago men were risking their lives to get paid. and shit art created among the ghosts of these people is just that- shit. and serves no purpose, other than the artist's own self importance. i've done my fair share of shit 'graffiti', but i hope my work has evolved a certain respect to its surroundings. and this is a key to good public art, sanctioned or otherwise- it has to speak to and of its circumstance. some guy coming up to a 'wasteland' and doing a mural informed by an urban existance many miles away is just bad style. like the saying goes, mr.murray, you gots to check yo' self.