Quarried Consciousness

Angus Taylor
Belfast Gabbro stone & stainless steal
680 mm (h) x 4800 mm (w) x 4 400 mm (d)
Copy unique/ a series of 4
3.7 tons


The large-scale stone stacked reclining male figure, ‘Quarried Consciousness’, formed part of Angus Taylor’s solo exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery. During a visit by Tony Buzbee and his wife Frances to the Cape Town gallery during South Africa’s summer holiday, they decided the sculpture belongs in Texas. This led to ‘Quarried Consciousness’ finding a permanent home on the Antioch Buzbee Ranch in Cass County, East Texas.

Weather conditions made the placement and assembly of the sculpture by the artist challenging, but Texans are known for their creative solutions. As the days were cold and wet, they erected a tent around the installation site. Heating was provided so that the concrete foundation could cure.
Despite extensive foundation preparations to reassemble the 3.7 ton stone puzzle, the finished work appears effortless, with the sculpture comfortably reclining in the ranch field.

Taylor believes making sculpture is a collective endeavour, involving artist, dealer and collector. Artists can only grow by creating, and creating on a large scale requires a large outlay.

As an artistic project, ‘Quarried Consciousness’ delves into the notion of ‘mind through material’, a methodology specific to Taylor’s creative output. ‘Holding a stone fills me with peace, reminding me that some things are permanent while others are transient,’ says Taylor. For him, the Roman saying ‘Vive Memor Leti’ (live remembering death) best summarizes this experience. It reminds Taylor to appreciate his ability to experience things and to celebrate them here and now.

The stone comes from afar, in time, having rested for millennia. By intervening with stone the artist wakes it, transporting it to the present moment. He disturbs its rest, but imparts new life into it. Whenever he works with stone he therefore feels privileged. Engaging with stone grounds him and connects him to a collective, to calmer, wiser and much older collaborators. ‘Every stone I work with is specific and allows for unique results in composition, creative dialogue and technical finish. There’s nothing insignificant or inconsequential about stone. For me, it’s the most meaningful material. I’m humbled by its profoundness,’ says Taylor.

Thus, the material embeds and conveys meaning. The stone may be filled with metaphor related to the male figure. 

The relation between stone and man may be seen as a comparative time study, a deeper understanding of our existence, short-lived in relation to earth’s deep time as seen in stone. By shaping the stone into human form the artist emphasizes the relation or comparison between humans and the environment. He chose to work with stone to separate humans from earth while binding them together, mindful of a phrase often recited at burial services: ‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust’. We humans come from the earth and return to it.

Holding a Belfast Gabbro granite stone in his hand makes Angus recall Carl Jung’s thoughts on the briefness of human life, ‘but a short pause between two great mysteries’. To him, stone is the most profound reminder of this fact.

Grasping the concept of geological time has taught him greater humility. Belfast Gabbro stone dates from 2-billion years ago. If earth’s existence were to be seen as 24 hours (as humans cannot comprehend 4.6-billion years), from midnight to midnight, this particular stone has been around since quarter to three in the afternoon. Our time here on earth, in the Anthropocene epoch, only started one minute and 40 seconds before midnight. This humbles Angus, reminding him of how short and utterly insignificant our lives are – including our dilemmas and dramas – especially in relation stone’s deep, deep time. 

Over millions of years stone is formed, changed and altered in structure and composition. It can be analysed and ‘read’ as narrative through time. Thus, stone contains a shared narrative of the origin and development of our entire natural world. The specifics of the geology give rise to the specifics of the flora, in turn giving specifics to the fauna. We humans create a life linked to the specifics of these resources. Yoga, an eastern physical, mental and spiritual discipline, strives to connect the human body to breathing, mindfulness, and being present.‘Quarried Consciousness’ gestures a yoga position, usually, the final physical position in a session called the corpse pose or ‘Savasana’. In these moments one ‘practices’ the idea of resting or passing, thereby considering your departure. In terms of contact with earth and base, it connects the body over the largest contact point with the earth, providing a most grounding reclining gesture.

The installation also functions as an anti-monument. As viewers, we are familiar with state and church statues, sculptures that serve as propaganda of ideology or belief, for example the countless ‘Heroes on Horses’ or religious iconography we’ve encountered, placed high on a pedestal to inspire reverence and to influence the viewer to see the world in a certain way, subtly altering your ‘consciousness’.

This human figure as sculpture appears cracked, perhaps vulnerable, but shows a ‘present-ness’ with a calm inner collectedness. Rather than it peering down on you, you as a spectator peer down on it.

Because it expects nothing from you and seems absorbed in its own thoughts, you may do the same, connecting to yourself and your physical existence, entering a similar state of ‘present-ness’ and absorption.

The sculpture, which took 18 months to complete, was procured and placed in its destination in Antioch by Tony Buzbee, who had the vision and generosity to share the artwork with the local community.

Although the installation is privately owned, it was installed close to the ranch border, making it visible to passers-by who may too appreciate it. This gesture forms part of a ‘gift economy’ culture (in the words of Lewis Hyde) which, in the opinion of the artist, is the most positive quality that an artwork and the patron may connote.As mentioned previously, a gift economy cannot exist without the market economy. In a world where most ideas are commodified, we forget the true power of gift economy.

Because we cannot deal with all the information at our disposal, we our society simplifies complexity. But the magic remains within complexity, between the layers of being, within the complexity of being human. We are much more than mere men, women, than our culture or occupation. This sculpture is not a hero on a horse. It’s more than a commodity. It isn’t propaganda of order or disorder. It offers reflections on a state of being shared through stone stacking.

According to Taylor, it’s been an invigorating and stimulating experience to install the artwork in the ranch environment. He remains grateful to all who support the creative production of culture worldwide.

Quarried Consciousness Exhibition

Quarried Consciousness Exhibition

Close up Texas Installation

Texas Installation

Texas Installation

Texas Installation