Something very different this week. The astonishing
work of sculpting elements
of historic buildings as performed by
Matthew Simmonds, carving into solid stone,.
All the information here is gathered from the web. Rather
than read this article you might prefer to go straight to
Matthew's own web site. All I seek to do here is acknowlege
something special and maybe unique. To recognise that the
world of Miniature Buildings is so much wider than station
buildings, terraced houses and Georgian rectories.
As Matthew explains in his biography page, he studied
architectural stone carving at college and went
on to work on the restoration of several major English
national monuments, most importantly Westminster Abbey
and the cathedrals of Salisbury and Ely. He moved on
from there to Italy where he specialised in fine
classical ornament in marble and won first
prize in 1999 at the international sculpture symposium
of Verona. He has exhibited in the UK, Italy, Germany,
Denmark, China, the UAE, Australia and the USA.
Do take a look at his work. There are multiple
pieces displayed in his
gallery page. I love them and if I
find out where you and I can see some of them I will let you
know. For now here is just one more example; one of my
favourites. It's called
Chapter House, made of limestone in 2007 and just
James Taylor-Foster wrote about Matthew's work, praising it highly,
article for Archdaily , an architectural website,in 2016.
He includes some quotes from Matthew himself about how the work
"Most of the spaces I carve in my sculptures are not
actual existing buildings. The exceptions are the
elevations of real buildings in my “Elevation” series.
When deciding which architectural style to be influenced by,
a certain type of stone may suggest a certain style.
For example, marble is suited to Classical Greek or
Roman, limestone to Romanesque or Gothic."
"Also, the form of a stone can influence the structural
space I want to create, and this can suggest a particular
type of historical building, as with Chapter House III.
Generally though, at the beginning of the process I am
thinking more about the volumes I want to create than the
architectural detailing. After removing the first bulk
of stone I can often see things more clearly and make
a decision about how to proceed."
"Carving into small internal spaces is obviously
very challenging, and has necessitated developing
specialised techniques and carving tools. Also,
carving internal spaces means that in a way I am
working with space more than with solid stone.
This can be confusing when it comes to the process
of removing stone, and there is a high risk of making
a mistake. It is always a challenge to visualise how
a piece will look before starting, particularly as
I am working with natural boulders in which the
sculpture is defined by the interaction between
the worked surfaces and the natural form of the
One of the pieces featured in James's article is a piece called
'Ringrone' carved into Faxe Limestone in 2016 and standing
61cm tall. Unlike most of the other pieces it evokes a
domestic feel rather than an ecclesiastical one.
The illustrations are all Matthew's copyright and I
hope he will excuse my reproduction of them here for
an audience which may be a bit different to those
who read sculpture and architectural journals and blogs.
You may also like to read another article about his work,
featuring some large scale images at the
My Modern Met website.
The immediate connection the pieces made for me was the
cave temple complexes in India. They are not miniatures
of course but full size buildings - or more precisely
chambers - carved into the cliffside. We visited the
caves at Ajanta and Ellora in 2013 and they impressed
me greatly. One of the highlights of our trip. Worth a
visit. Worth a journey once the present disaster is all
Just two of the caves at Ajanta and Ellora.
The first showing inside one of the many chambers
withits elaboarte carving and the second showing
an entrance inthe cliff face. With people at
the cave mouth giving an idea of the scale.
The other echo that sounded in my memory was of
some architectural models I saw a few years ago
at the evocative ruins of Cluny abbey in France.
Much more conventional models than Matthew's dramatic
carvings but something of the same stylistic feel.
Monochrome and uncluttered. I will return to these
and other interpretative models from cathedrals
on another day.