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Jake Harvey | Studio Insights

24 June 2022

Jake Harvey creates sculptures imbued with a sense of stillness and a sophisticated Zen-like simplicity. In advance of his first exhibition with The Scottish Gallery in July 2022, Honed, Gallery Director Kirsty Sumerling visited Jake at his home and studio in Maxton in the Scottish Borders. As the seasons changed and evolved throughout the year, so did his work as he built towards a new collection for his solo presentation as part of our Summer programme. With quotes from Jake himself, this blog documents these visits and offers you an insight into his work and studio.

You can view the exhibition here or enjoy the short film below, which offers an insight into Jake’s studio.

October 2021

I first visited Jake Harvey’s studio in Maxton in the Scottish Borders on a beautiful sunny autumnal day in October 2021. Set amongst the mature trees and grassy borders, I was greeted by the old Maxton Cross, firmly positioned outside Jake’s front garden. Perhaps a timely reminder that sculpture can stand the test of time and the elements – the moss, lichen and natural patina only adding to its presence as it sits harmoniously amongst the landscape.

Maxton Cross positioned outside Jake Harvey's front garden in Maxton, Scottish Borders, October 2021
The outside stone carving area of Jake Harvey's studio in Maxton, Scottish Borders, October 2021

I have lived and worked from my studio in the rural landscape of the Scottish Borders all my life: a landscape, geologically configured in deep time, utilised, worked, and modified throughout human existence. Our reliance on earth’s stone is deeply embedded in my consciousness.

I have travelled widely to seek out and experience sites of archaeological significance and have visited museums and the studios of contemporary practitioners to explore and record how human beings over millennia, have used stone to create art, architecture, tools, and artifacts.

Jake Harvey carves granite, basalt, marble and limestone, often placing the simple abstract forms directly on the wall or floor, or sometimes on shaped bases which can be set indoors or outside within a landscape. After studying sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art (1966–72), Harvey went on to become the Head of School of Sculpture for eleven years. He is currently Emeritus Professor of Sculpture and lives and works in Maxton in the Scottish Borders. Increasingly intrigued by the relationship of man to the earth and enthralled by the shaping of earth by man and vice versa, his sculptures retain the indexical mark of the maker and often subtly imply an indeterminate use or function.

I caught Jake on one of the last weekends he was able to work in his outdoor stone carving area before it became too cold to work effectively and he needed to move to his indoor studio adjacent to his home.

March 2022

As work progressed and Jake was able to once more work outside on the larger pieces for the exhibition, he decided upon the exhibition title Honed.

The title of this exhibition of sculptures carved in basalt, granite, marble and porphyry relates to a material and a way of working it. In a broader context it links to my aim to create simple sculptural forms; works of distilled essence that invite deliberation from the viewer; sculptures made by a process of paring down and refining in terms of both form and concept.

Drawings and sketches are a crucial part of the process, helping to inform the shape of the piece as much as the stone itself. within the exhibition are two examples of monochrome framed works. During this visit, Jake explained his plans for creating corten steel bases for the stand alone pieces that would allow them to sit indoors or outside within a landscape.

My creative stimulus comes from many sources but frequently evolves from drawing things seen and imagined, from lived encounters with the landscape and, in the reductive process of carving, from embracing the tangential ways of making that evolve.

Jake Harvey's garden in Maxton, Scottish Borders, March 2022

June 2022

Alongside the larger works for the exhibition Jake has created a series of wall pieces depicting abstracted encounters with the landscape. Formerly street setts (cassies), kerbstones and causeway stones, these were initially quarried and then chopped and carved to an approximate usable dimension.

Jake Harvey in his studio, Maxton, Scottish Borders

Each stone still possesses the decision-making and mark of those original masons. In use, further shaped by the elements and those people, animals and traffic who have traversed them for hundreds of years, they carry that memory too. In adding my own intervention and mark-making another trace and layer is added.

the kelsae stane

On a recent visit to Kelso in the Scottish Borders, I discovered the ‘Kelsae Stane’ – a massive 33 tonne block of worked Indian basalt which was installed in a prime location in the historic square in July 2014. This monumental piece is also the work of Jake Harvey who won the competition to design a piece of public art which reflects what the word ‘Kelso’ epitomises for local residents. Harvey spent several months quarrying and shaping the hard stone, working with stone-carvers in Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu, India), an ancient port with a tradition of stone quarrying and sculpture, dating back to the 7th century.

The form of the block mimics that of the cobblestone setts with which Kelso’s square is paved. The rough vertical faces of the block are incised with a map of nearly 200 local place names reproducing the handwriting in which local inhabitants wrote the name of their village or farm.

Jake has a particular interest in traditions of hand-carving stone around the world and hand tools were an important part of the project. The traces left by such tools, are ‘indexical marks’ of the sculptors and masons who used them. The simple, yet striking monument speaks to this and a number of other themes, including materiality, place, memory, language, identity, individuality and community.

You can view Jake Harvey’s exhibition Honed here.

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