Introduction to 'The Creek Men'
Christopher Le Brun. President of the RA.
What is that particularly describes the atmosphere which the sculptor Laurence Edwards creates around him? It seems to me it comes not so much from translating the light or views of the fields and Suffolk shoreline where he works, but rather from his sensitivity to the things that move within it – the landscapes living inhabitants and creatures.
In the workshop, toads gather under the base of huge damp clay figures, above swallows swoop through the long shed, and Laurence himself is barely distinguishable, encrusted as he is in plaster, or swathed against the cold head to foot in what have become, unconsciously, richly patinated ritual working clothes.
Like the work of Graham Sutherland in Pembrokeshire or Ivon Hitchens in Sussex, It is part of Laurence's achievement as an artist to be creating an art that seems to arise and belong in a place, and so doing this for Suffolk now: showing us the value of what is nearby.
The poet Charles Sisson writes of the significance of what he calls English Particularism* - that is, the grounding of values and thought in precedent, with close attention to actual behaviour, to noticing how things really are, not how they ought to be. It has its ancient origin, this way of life and perception of reality, and is to be distinguished from what William Pitt saw (admittedly in a political context) as the 'contagion of the ideal'.
When you see or more accurately, experience, the place where work is made and the landscape that Laurence has inhabited, you cannot help but sense how informal the relation of his art is to nature.
So to talk of or expect an 'idea' in any thinking about his work is curiously unsuited. The associations seem all wrong: In the case of the Greek / Latin roots of the word idea, chiefly the associations are abstractions, where white for example might initially evoke neo – classicism, or the eternal archetypes of Platonic philosophy. For Laurence the idea comes from somewhere else. It is worth considering why he is here, drawn to this actual place where the great Saxon burial site of Sutton Hoo is but a few miles away across the heath.
His studio and workshops comprise a wandering assortment of irregular former farm buildings bounded by a flood embankment and a small crag quarry. There is a potential library tower (full of nesting birds), odd eccentric windows, a camera lucida turret, endless materials of once and future purpose. I would say that here there is both idea and ideal. In this case it is one where the colour white is more likely to recall mist rising from the Butley millpond, thick frost, or the radiance of the occasional barn owl hunting with careful attention across the marsh.
C H Sisson 'The Avoidance of Literature' collected essays. Carcanet Press 1978.