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As Touchstone Artist in Residence, Salisbury Museum and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, 2010, Siân Bowen created a body of 'wrapped' drawings for the group exhibition, Touchstones, at Salisbury Museum,  in 2011.

On Wrapped Stone Drawings:

Before exploring the archaeology stores of the Museum, I travelled to different sites of excavation across the Stonehenge landscape. I was struck by the polarity of soft and hard materials –white chalk against black flint – and how these had determined ways in which the sites had evolved. Stone hammered against stone, stone cut into the surfaces of chalk and clay, antler pickaxes used to dig into the soft earth.

Entering the stores at the top of a steep flight of stairs and hidden from public view, was a special and intimate experience. Boxes upon boxes lined the shelves, all containing objects from numerous excavations of the sites surrounding Stonehenge. As I unwrapped flint tools (each individual in terms of their shape, colour and size), roughly cut spherical hammer stones and softly indented antler pickaxes, it felt as though they were being rediscovered once again – echoing something of how the archaeologists must have felt when they first uncovered them.


My work in recent years has often explored notions of touch in relation to visual language. At times this has led to ambitious processes of production in which traditional techniques and new media methodologies are brought together. During this residency, I wanted to return to simple equations but, none the less, produce a series of drawings that were experimental in their making. All the objects that I chose from the stores were tools designed to touch and affect another surface in some way. The drawings followed suit – the paper was wrapped around or over the surface of each object that I had selected. It was then pushed, teased and moulded into the crevices and cracks of the stone tools and into the indented surfaces of the antler pickaxes.


Taking the imprint of the objects is this way felt highly relevant – without actually being able to see them (because they was hidden beneath the paper), I began to discover their forms and surface, purely through touch. The weight of the stone starkly contrasted with the lightness of the paper. This method of understanding form through a non-visual experience was then translated into a visual one at the final stage of making the drawing. The imprint of the object was dusted or burnished with graphite powder. At times the imprint was worked from the reverse side. Gradually an image appeared on the paper, almost as a photograph slowly emerges in a darkroom.

Siân Bowen 2010

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