Case Study 25: The Kelsae Stane

Katherine Forsyth

The ‘Kelsae Stane’ is a massive 33-tonne block of worked Indian basalt which was installed in a prime location in the historic square of Kelso, Roxburghshire, in July 2014 (Sutherland 2014). It is the work of local sculptor, Jake Harvey, Emeritus Professor of Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art, winner of the competition to design a piece of public art which reflects what the word ‘Kelso’ epitomizes for local residents. Harvey spent several months quarrying and shaping the very hard stone, working with itinerant stone-carvers in Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu, India), an ancient port with a tradition of stone quarrying and sculpture, dating back to the 7th century. The form of the block mimics that of the cobblestone setts with which Kelso’s square is paved. The rough vertical faces of the block are incised with a map of nearly 200 local place names reproducing the handwriting in which local inhabitants wrote the name of their village or farm. Harvey has a particular interest in traditions of hand-carving stone around the world and hand tools were an important part of the project. The traces left by such tools, are ‘indexical marks’ of the sculptors and masons who used them (in patterns as distinctive as handwriting). The simple, yet striking monument speaks to this and a number of other themes, including materiality, place, memory, language, identity, individuality and community.

Figure 1: The Kelsae Stane © Simon Taylor

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