As far as I remember, it was
about a thousand years ago when there were neither
conservatives, socialists, communists, terrorists nor
Dolly the sheep and people cooked their meat on fires and
threw their natural waste through the window, that Julian
and I met. Because of his sharp mind and his complete
lack of political correctness he had been thrown out of
the town and was living outside the city walls in a bar,
where he wrote about the love life of the cricket. We had
a drink, and then another, and then another, and then
Julian disclosed his mad plan - to build a clock tower
dedicated to the end of the millennium. Strangely, this
idea took hold of my imagination, and then took root.
My job was to create the
building of the tower. I have rarely had an opportunity
to work on this scale, and it has been both daunting and
Tim Stead (1952-2000)
Tim Stead's speech at the private view of the Clock (the draft found in his computer)
The idea for the clock came
from Julian Spalding in 1995. In the early days of
Millennium madness when it seemed that anything was
possible. And Julian felt that a large-scale work to
reflect the hopes and fears of the last Millennium would
be an important piece to have in the Kelvingrove Gallery.
Our big mistake was to expect Edward to make drawings, he
became physically ill under the pressure of having to
produce drawings, because that is not the way he works he
says he dreams the work. He certainly becomes totally
involved in his work and one thing leads to another as he
makes a particular journey that only he can make. I work
in a similar way but I am more used to the process of
proposing an idea. I made a model straight away, not of
what it would be but just something to get things going,
I know that you can always change things as they evolve,
but Edward is too honest and felt he had to really had to
write the story of his journey before he had set off.
Applications always want to know the end of the story.
But the early start and higher budget were not to be as
the first application was turned down.
Food, drink and long evenings where the conversation can move freely between the serious and the ridiculous, the practical and the impossible. The clock tower is literally and physically built around Edward's creations. There are no Sculptors who can tell stories of pain and pleasure hope and fear anymore. Art in the west has evolved beyond representation, and is more concerned with art as a part of life that life as a focus for art.Perhaps Edward is the last one to slip through the aesthetic net. In making this tower he has traveled Europe looking at Cathedrals with a passion, he feels that his work is part of that tradition, of imagery which is both religious and bizarre. Our own times seem very stable and rational, yet beneath the surface the contradictions are as striking. Because he lived through all the changes in the Soviet Union, and survived, his work is as close a representation of the last century's chaos as anyone could achieve. When Maggy and I first saw his work in Leningrad it had an impact which I had never experienced before. He wove a strange spell, which contained such horror, such humour, a world populated by dreams and nightmares. Something impossible to achieve in the sheltered West. It was an experience, which we wanted to share with people, and we tried to organize an exhibition.
This clock tower celebrates the
end of the second millennium. Globally we accept the
current calendar, and we will all take this as a tuning
point. A year out here or there is not important to many
people. But it is a point where we can stand back and
look at ourselves in the distorted mirror of history.
Many historians and philosophers will write the history,
television documentaries are showing footage of the last
century. This sculpture cannot show everything and makes
no attempt to explain anything. It is a monument to our
history full of contradictions and question marks. Edward
Bersudsky's work is the core of the tower: the story
telling where East meets West. But sculpture, especially
mechanized gives another dimension to the story. If it
could be described it wouldn't need to be made. But the
work needs to be experienced rather that read about. Like
in a cathedral everyone must bring their own experiences
and see through those. A couple who have just given birth
will exalt in the nativity. If you have lost a child
suddenly the crucifixion becomes so poignant. If you are
dying or caring for the dying the Pieta is significant.
The sculpture is very complex, you bring to it an even
more complex structure of your own life, and you will see
it differently from year to year. Many elements are quite
shocking, but Edwards's personal history is about shock.
There is a coating of humour and caricature around the
carvings but they are real people, real experiences which
confound our western experience. To understand something
of the Russian madness you should read the Master and
Margarita by Michael Bulgakov.
This clock is the second
largest kinematic sculpture in Europe, and I think one
of, if not the largest sculpture to celebrate the
millennium in Scotland.It is a miracle that it has
happened. All government funding is a nightmare,
Millennial projects seem to double the trouble.
My first toast is to Tatiana who has never let go of the project. In the catalogue Edward describes her as a normal horse, with four legs and a tail but with superhuman energy. She has made it happen.
My second toast is to the Scottish Arts Council, the Scottish Arts Lottery and the Royal and National Museum , articularly to Mark Jones; there had to be a foundation of trust which allowed all these groups to overcome their worries and doubts. Nobody knew what the tower would look like until the last weeks of December. As artists we are used to taking risks- we have no 'obs to loose only our reputations. Those employed in the Arts sector as administrators and consultants are tied into an ever growing cancer of accountability. Thank, you for taking the risk - and please keep taking the risks, it is so important to allow and encourage new and wonderful things to blossom and be a part of our future.
My third toast is to team work, there have been at least 30 people involved in the making. Team work is a very special human activity. We are very lucky that there is this network of skills which exists in Scotland. All these people are friends and people whose skills you can depend on. Time is not counted by the hour - if it was the clock tower would only be 8 ft high. In the old balloon argument of who you would throw out I would love to throw out the person with the flip chart and business plan. This tower stands because of life learned practical skills. This toast is to team work and friendship.
My fourth toast is to Scotland where this team work happens naturally. It is a small country, and a dynamic country, nobody can isolate themselves from the community in the way London and New York and Paris can. This is a very special country which is very rooted in real social democracy and should be leading the way. I applied for the Jerwood prize and was very angry not to get short listed and seeing all the familiar colleges it shows how dreadfully insular and provincial London is. It would be a disaster if Scotland lost its wide view; but Scotland should promote itself worldwide, we have such an underused team of artists and craftspeople who should be promoted abroad and promote Scotland abroad. We have a great pride in Scotland and I would like to see Scotland 2,000 taking a greater pride in us, the wider community of artists.
After my Forth toast I am honour bound to do a Clyde toast. Which is to E B who I know is a genius. I first saw his work 11 years ago, and I was caught in its spell. I have seen pieces half made and thought what a pity he's lost it, but when they are finished I am proved wrong every time; they get better and better. The carvings of the victims are new and amazing as is the pieta. Because it moves it lives, and it will be one of the top ten must to be seen objects in Europe. But please take time to look at the carvings in detail. Each is a work of art, and worth spending time to contemplate. If Tatiana is the Horse he is the bear that lives to work, and then sleeps. But he also worries, and had a stroke in December. What does he do? -Carves 4 more pieces, because he feels they are missing. Totally outside the budget- which nobody had written down, but of course we overspent. This toast is to creativity, individuality and commitment. I would like to share this with all the people who work in health, education and voluntary work It is to give and not to count the cost. Without this everything would collapse.. This tower should be understood as that.
Please raise your glasses to E B.
Tim Stead (1952-2000)
Few people are lucky enough to see their dreams come true. When I first saw the sculptures of Eduard Bersudsky, I fancifully imagined that they were the work of a mediaeval sculptor magically brought back to life. What better way to celebrate the millennium, I thought, than to commission him to make a great clock that would express all the fears and hopes of our own times. And here it is - much more powerful and beautiful than I could ever have imagined.
Eduard immediately realised that he could only make the clock with the help of other artists and craftsmen: the result is a triumph of creative friendship. Jürgen Tübbecke's precision clock provides the inexorable movement that gears all Bersudsky's crazy human activity. Annica Sandström's beautiful eyes speak of the latitude of St Petersburg and of trolls. Tim Stead, who introduced me to Bersudsky and who is closest to him, has produced a great tower that seems to have grown out of the past, like the old wooden churches of Russia, blackened as they were by fires of suffering and anguish, yet fresh with new growth within.
At the core, Bersudsky's spirit rises, slow and grinding at the base, loving and ludicrous in its groin, fluttering at its heart, with an eternal round of suffering in its head, and at the very peak a piteous spectacle of a woman holding a dead, old man in her arms. This, by any reckoning, is a great work of art for our age.
It is very likely that Tim Stead, who died at the age of 48, will come, in time, to be regarded as one of the most significant sculptors in post-war Britain. The fact that he was thought of mainly as a furniture-maker, rather than a sculptor, reflects not on him but on the insular world of modern art.
Tim studied fine art first at Trent Polytechnic then at Glasgow School of Art, but he chose to make furniture. He chose, too, to work in wood, eventually solely with native British species. No-one who had benefitted from his dispassionate generosity would think of him as a revolutionary. But he was. Nothing could be more offensive to a 'fine' artist than his work could be used, let alone sat upon. Nothing could be further from modern media technology than a hunk of burr elm. But Tim's revolutionary stance came naturally to him. He was an original.
He was brought up in the Cheshire countryside, rolling in the bracken and climbing trees. At twelve, he realized that with eight hours sleep and eight hours work, there was little time left for being alive. He dedicated himself to doing just that.
He found art college oppressive. At Trent Polytechnic there was a huge sculpture studio hung with gantries, but the students were working with Letraset. He reacted against conceptual art which dealt with contemporary issues cerebrally. Tim wanted to deal with them physically, emotionally and creatively, as well. His whole life was an integrated attempt to address one of the greatest issues facing mankind today: our relationship with nature.
He eased himself out of the conceptual straightjacket by using humour. Not taking himself seriously, he found he could play. And he never stopped. He started to make sculpture with driftwood and scrap wood. One, a leaning tower with a creaking pendulum, presages the Millennium Clock he made thirty years later, where he used burnt wood again, this time to evoke the burnt-out churches in Soviet Russia, and his own deepening awareness of death.
Wood became his medium. But it was not till he moved his workshop from Ibrox to Harestanes, near Jedburgh, that he discovered the merits of native wood - not least its cheapness. He never used imported timber again. He got to know Britain's trees, how to cut them and season them and how to use them in a way that celebrated their beauty. Furniture-making gave him the means to do this, and also the means to live in the way he wanted. It brought him into contact with people who commissioned him and encouraged him. And so he built up a community of support around him that enabled him to develop creatively in a way that was totally independent of any establishment.
His huge output has been dispersed, and only a retrospective exhibition would reveal the extent of his creativity. When it happens, it will be a revelation. Tim couldn't help putting everything he had into everything he did. As he worked, his ideas and images became richer in meaning and clearer in form. An exhibition will show how he develop his unique 'skeletal' chairs, 'slab' drawers and dressers and how his purely playful sculptural pieces inspired his furniture, and vice-versa.
Some commissions were crucial to his development, in particular Cafe Gandolfi in Glasgow, which he created with Iain MacKenzie and Ian Millican in 1979, which gave him the chance to compose an embracing environment. I hope it survives long enough to be listed. The Memorial Chapel in the Kirk of St. Nicholas, Aberdeen, commissioned by the North Sea Oil Industries enabled Tim to create an emotionally quiet environment. Commissions became his way of life, from the chair he made for Pope John Paul II's visit to Scotland in1982 to the secret chamber he built in the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow in 1996.
In 1990, Murray Grigor asked him to make a wooden version of one of the Neolithic stone houses at Skara Brae in Orkney for the exhibition Scotland Creates at the McLellan Galleries. Working on this project, Tim felt he had at last found his roots, in a culture that was powerful, civilized, integrated with nature and nothing to do with Rome. His masterpiece, however, is the home he built for his family at Blainslie. The interior of the Steading is a total embrace in wood. It is here that the formal qualities in Tim's art become most apparent: his love of an ordered rhythm that balances and enhances the rhythm of growth.
Tim's life was dedicated to growth. He was a major inspiration behind the establishment of a community woodland near his home, where he is to be buried. He was also the co-founder of Woodschool in Ancrum, which enables craftsmen to develop the skills needed to make full use of native timber, and he was a key player in the Millennium Forest project. For all this community work, he was awarded the MBE in 2000.
He was encouraged other's creativity. It was he who recognized the genius of Eduard Bersudsky and helped him establish his Sharmanka Theater in Glasgow. His collaboration with this great Russian woodcarver on the Millennium Clock, for the Royal Museum in Chamber's Street, Edinburgh, was to be his last work. It indicates new and dramatic developments in his art, of which his death tragically deprives us. All that he did create, however, is imbued with his spirit and will live long after him.
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