The words ‘cairn’ and ‘tumulus’ refer to mounds of earth or stones which cover over prehistoric burial grounds or tombs. Whilst a cairn is a pile of loose rocks and stones, which tends to cover over a single burial, a tumulus is more of an earthwork- a larger scale grassy mound which can often contain large tombs or multiple burials, and can date as far back as the late Neolithic period. On the OS map of Comrie, around the River Ruchil area where I had been walking, I saw markings of a couple of tumuli, and they aroused my curiosity. I wondered who (or what) might be buried there, and I began to think of artefacts and bones which might be buried deep below these mounds. This is another hidden layer of the landscape- without the aid of markings on a map, and a bit of knowledge about burial mounds, an earthwork such as this would be easily overlooked, despite the fact that it had been constructed as a monument to mark the importance of someone’s life. I was thinking of layers, and burying, and wondering how I could bury fragments or words yet still allow them to be partly visible. I had a bag of wax beads in the studio, and decided to try a little experiment with them. When melted, I poured the hot wax onto paper, playing with it by allowing it to dry a little, then adding more on top. I love the semi-translucence of the wax – it allows you to see a glimpse of what is inside, yet obscures at the same time. I had some earth which I dug up in Comrie, and small stones from the banks of the Ruchil. I decided to put these into the melting pot, and mix them in to the molten wax.
Molten wax with earth mixed in
I also mixed in some of the river gravel which I had collected
The mixture was then poured onto canvas, left to dry, before more layers were poured on top
I was trying to create my own little burial mound on canvas
The wax feels gorgeous to touch…a really beautiful medium to work with
It now resembles the contours of an earthwork, although not quite as precise as those of Charles Jencks!
I left the wax mound for a few days, but realised that it would not be a piece which would last long, as the wax had cracked on one of the edges. Wanting to retain the translucent qualities of the wax, yet preserve the contours that it had created, I covered the piece with one layer of tissue paper and PVA glue.
When dried, the wax was still visible through the tissue, as were the contours.
The background was painted white, to give a contrast between the opacity of the canvas and the glassy appearance of the mound. I think that the result is interesting, and I like the fact that the earth and stones are buried inside the wax, sealed in but still visible through the layers of this translucent tumulus.