A superb collection of high quality photographs and informative descriptions by the artist, charting the evolution of Adrian’s stonebalancing art.
Foreword by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
I know Adrian Gray through his visits to River Cottage, where his displays at our events always draw an awe-struck crowd. It’s hardly surprising: there is nothing so compelling as watching someone achieve the impossible before your very eyes.
Whether beheld in the flesh or in his beautiful photographs, Adrian’s balanced stones appear magical – and their effect is certainly spellbinding. But Adrian would never claim to be a magician. He is an artist and a craftsman. One of the delights of his shows and exhibitions is his willingness to engage with his audience, answering questions and telling his story. At occasional workshops, he gets people to try stonebalancing themselves. I have done it myself: the sensation of moving one’s hands away from a just-balanced stone and seeing the stones held together by their own force is a deliciously unusual physical and emotional experience.
Of course Adrian has a touch and a concentration that is beyond comprehension for most of us. Creating each sculpture is a task both physical and metaphysical. Watching him work, he seems to be operating in a mental space somewhere between profound concentration and weightless meditation. This dichotomy is conveyed when Adrian walks away, and you look at the finished works. They exude a sense of timeless calm, yet paradoxically also seem taut with trapped energy.
Adrian’s own story is fascinating and salutary. As you will read, he has had to overcome some considerable challenges. That he has done so with such energy, and forged a creative life in a beautiful place, doing something that he loves to do and that brings pleasure to others, is inspiring. That’s a word we bandy about a lot. But I haven’t chosen it lightly here. I’m sure Adrian’s story, and his work, really will inspire others to overcome their struggles, and find peace and purpose in the world.
I think Adrian would agree that the work cannot be separated from the life. He has talked about his art as a counterpoint to the post-industrial manmade chaos – the unbalanced world – that surrounds us. And I think that is a key part of its appeal. Balance is something we all crave yet so often fail to achieve.
Adrian’s work invites comparison with other manipulators of the natural world such as Andy Goldsworthy. Art like this can’t help but make us think about the way humankind interacts with the environment – and that is surely part of the artist’s motivation. But I think Adrian’s work is ultimately celebratory, and full of hope. The ancient stones that he uses, and the glorious seascapes against which he sets them, are simply lovely to look at. For Adrian, there is of course a great investment of labour, time and skill in the finding, balancing and placing of his materials. But for the viewer, the pleasure is effortless. Each photograph in this book captures a moment of perfect pivotal stillness against the backdrop of a shifting world: something that is beautiful, just because it is.
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