…Never to Return
It’s a simple truism in every sense. An era has passed, never to return. Look into any past culture anywhere on the globe and you can trace perspectives on art of the day for that era. Each continent has expressed who it is in multidimensional works of art crafted by the human eye and hand. This expressionism seems to permeate every culture be that wherever life is lived out by the human group.
In reality this historical expressioning marks the punctuation of a culture that existed in the making of it there in that past expanse of an era and is typically a period no one will or can ever, ever repeat or return to. I have spent time returning to the craftsmen that carved wood and stone to shape some of Oxford City city centre that’s exemplified in the college buildings of what we call Oxford University.
With 39 colleges and Permanent Private Halls it would take me years to document the woodwork in even just two or three of the colleges: decades and even a lifetime.
The deep seat of craftsmanship surrounding students and academics alike is perhaps seldom really acknowledged and yet, in my view for one at least, surely it deserves the same recognition attributed to the most premium of students who graced those lofty portals.
The colleges are a bit like cathedrals in that they offer the worship of education but the craftsmen that built those immense structures with such skill and care are left as the unknown and unacknowledged. It’s the designers that take pride of place of course and well deserved that is too. I feel that as woodworkers we might put the crafting artisans on the pedestal of creativity knowing that the designers did have right of ownership but only in part.
Without woodworkers of every kind, blacksmiths and engineers, stonemasons and perhaps a hundred more crafts by thousands upon thousands of artisans spanning centuries worth of generations we would know nothing of the now silent arts of the eras past.
There are fifty of these bench ends carved for this area of a single building alone.
Below, in the seating chamber, are the benches of the great debaters of the age. Think Churchill types as a starting point and you see where I am coming from. Now that the patina from thousands of passing bodies is established in the art work, we will see how long these buildings have kept the history within the carvings from an artisan and his gouges. The tributes are as always enshrined in the anonymity of the carver.
No one will ever know the name or the background of the man carver that made such beautiful statements, testaments to skilled working. In the realness of life most artisans are unknowns within a few weeks, months and years of completing their art, if indeed they were ever known beyond the small cluster group of other fellow artisans they worked alongside. How much more those artists of centuries ago!