Daniel Cooper is currently showing his slate sculptures “Metamorphosis 1” as a solo exhibition at the Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery until the 30th of april. His inspiration for this body of work comes from the Elterwater slate quarry, situated in the Langdale pikes of the Lake District national park. Two years ago Daniel visited the slate quarry, he explained his interest in slate to the quarry manager, who kindly arranged a personal tour of the quarry.
After showing Daniel evidence of huge extracted rocks, a quarryman explained quarrying techniques and the geological background of slate. Following this a slate splitter gave a demonstration in slate splitting. He presented a freshly rived roof slate and a riving chisel which Daniel took home to practice with. Around the quarry, extracted rocks were waiting to be sawn into slabs for the slate splitter to work into roofing slate, flooring tiles and cladding, Daniel noticed that when slate is sawn the greeny blue textures change, changing also through the elements of sunlight and rain.
Daniel left the quarry that day inspired by the quarrymen, their stories of riving slate, finding beautiful textures and strata markings in the layers of this incredibly unforgiving material. He wanted to adopt the working methods, knowledge and dialect of the quarrymen, how they refer to the strata markings in slate as the “Barring” and the riven texture as the “Bate” and work these textures into sculpture that bring nature, industry and craft together.
Daniel feels that the raw forms of his sculptures were shaped by adopting the working methods of the quarrymen, while the carvings that inhabit the raw forms were inspired by his time working as a stone mason in Ireland, where he learnt to carve relief and incised lettering. His carvings are inspired by the Celtic style of the Ogham standing stones, the earliest form of writing in Ireland, 4th century AD. He likes the patterns and solidty of the bands and knots, his carvings try to break down the traditional Celtic style to create a more rhythmic and abstract carving.
The carvings are made from a series of marks that curve and bend with rhythmic movement. The marks become forms of nature, they change into letters that symbolise time, the letters become words, a metaphor for his working process.
Daniel also admires the work of Eduardo Chillida the Basque Sculptor, whose sculptures of forged iron (hewn from the Basque terrain) rise up in explosive rhythmic curves. Chillida learnt his skills from local blacksmiths, adopting their age old techniques. Daniel pays homage to Chillida in one of his sculptures “Towards the surface” (showing at Leeds). The sculpture is a response to Chillida’s etching “Towards the diagonal”. In Daniels sculpture (wall hanging) the marks of a fish sweep through a thin rived layer of slate passing areas of volcanic ash and stata markings moving towards the surface.
Daniel also works Elterwater slate into figurative sculpture. His “Slate Girl” sculptures are showing at the Walker Gallery in Harrogate. He is represented by the gallery and is working towards a solo exhibition there this year.