Leo Duff

The Precipitous Edge

The drawings in The Precipitous Edge take the subject matter of Stone Upon Broken Stone, my on-going theme of the use and reuse of stone in our built environment, to focus on the domination of concrete within our urban space.  In contrast to previous works in the series, these show a country setting becoming overrun with new bungalows, and the concrete block being employed in replacement of quarried stones in the cyclic desire for newer and bigger houses currently dominating the landscape of rural Ireland.This the works made whilst staying at Taipei Artist Village and shown in the Museum of Arts at Taiwan National University are based on the positioning and re-positioning of stone alongside the concrete structures in the city.

Research into the practice of Chinese ink painting was combined with western methods and thinking and the two linked by experimentation in the use of media and technique.  Whilst making this work I wove into my experience the Chinese idiom, ‘review the ancient, learn new insights’, a constant reminder to embrace the personal with the impersonal in the built environment as well as in the drawings made.  Therefore the ceaseless movement of traffic on the concrete flyovers and boulevards swooping and sweeping over and around the city of Taipei creates the gushing river, the pavements and small lanes the mountain paths and the various buildings, from the world’s tallest, 101, to the village like alley communities the towering mountains, foothills and scree.  Play with white space, perspective and composition, particularly different in the two cultures, along with materials led to a new interpretation of this cityscape dominated by concrete, where nature now meets the grid and opposites constantly collide.

The juxtaposition of so many lives in a city helps it to hang-on to and re-form its identity.  Despite the application of concrete by its inhabitants to almost every constructed surface we still see the organic nature of Taipei as it creeps and sprawls into the surrounding mountains.  This scenario has provided the opportunity to underline through the drawings made in Taipei the integration of literature with ink painting.  The scholar’s stone, the contemplation of nature through the rocky landscape, the reverence to stone and the philosophy it represents in traditional ink painting is still very much part of the thinking and philosophy in contemporary arts in Taiwan.  The Precipitous Edge brings ‘a rock and a hard place’ into view as a place where they can meet harmoniously, as befits the philosophy of ink painting as well as a metaphor for living in a city of concrete.

Thank you to the inhabitants of these cities and villages who will for ever continue to build their surroundings in all shapes and sizes and for help they have given me while working amongst them.