“…the ubiquity of stone has almost made it invisible.”

Thomas Appleton, winner of aspex’s Craft Emergency competition back in 2013, is our current main space show, with his fantastic exhibition ‘Stonecarved’.

Aspex’s Kia Charalambous takes a look at the work.

A letter carver, and a stone mason, Thomas Appleton has found his element and is now attempting to change it. His quest is to ‘soften up’, through his craft, the material he is using and make it more malleable. Stone cannot only be used for grandiose constructions and buildings, it is now, in the artist’s hands, acquiring new properties.

It can become something deeply personal, or funny, depending on the mood of the letter carver. Or it can become time lapsing frames that observe the movement of an animal. The one thing that is certain is that one will never be able to look at stone in the same way after Appleton’s exhibition in the ASPEX gallery.

It is not that he disdains all other materials, but rather he believes that the ubiquity of stone has almost made it invisible. The artist is taking his material from the background and putting it in the centre of our perception, where it takes on a new hue.

His touch is subtle and his concern is to let the material be itself. He is dedicated in preserving the hand-crafting methods with which the stone was processed and uses no computer software to create his letterings. Thomas frequently visits quarries around the UK and as he explains, being aware of the history of his material helps him to be more sincere with his work.

He is fascinated with the bleakness of some of the quarries he visits. What is very interesting about his work is that it combines the desolate character of stone with the urban sensibility of the artist. Thomas presents to us a zone of blended boundaries and one can’t help but wonder whether it is a zone of conflict or reconciliation.

This timelessness of the material has always been used for commemoration of great achievement but now, it is also being used to immortalise hip hop lyrics. What the carvings of the artist are attempting to do is dare the association between prestige and permanence and they manage to do it in the most unexpected way.

Thomas’ interest in stone extends to scientific knowledge and by talking to geologists he seeks to become more familiar with the life story of his material. He has observed many native stones under the microscope and was able to appreciate the rich life that formed some of them.

The most important goal for the artist seems to be to help his audience appreciate stone as something more versatile and unpredictable. He does that by introducing his material to a field that constantly requires change, that of art. There are many works of art whose fame time cannot touch, but how ageless would a Vermeer painting look next to an art piece made out of stone?