One of the earliest sculptures that Stephen Cox made in India was Etruscan 1985, four oval heads emerging from slabs of granite to represent the four senses: taste, sight, hearing and smell. The oval, a form which has recurred in Cox's sculpture over many years, represents the Cosmic Egg that floated in the primal waters, according to Hindu belief, and is used here as a basic sculptural device to support the features - mouth, eyes, ears and nose.
The extended, vertical oval form is also used in Hindu imagery as a lingum. Anointed with oil and worshipped, this symbol of male fertility has been engaged by Cox as a vehicle for the organs of action - mouth, anus, penis, hands and legs. They stand, taller than man, in a circle, reminiscent of ancient standing stones, and anointed with oil as in a puja or prayer. The hollow in which the stones are placed at Hat Hill contains the sculpture perfectly. It was once a flint mine, the flint stones from which were used in the construction of the fine wall which encloses two sides of the copse.
Granite is one of the oldest stones in the earth's crust and, for Cox, bears a mystical significance. It is hard to work, and the artist's intervention becomes a mark for all time.
About The Artist
Stephen Cox is perhaps best known for his monolithic sculptures and has worked prolifically in Italy, India and Egypt, implementing native materials to create contemporary formal works that echo with historical and cultural connotations.
Stephen Cox’s work is widely influenced by other cultures. Rooted in Classicism, his early sculptures are related to architecture and archaic fragments and were realised in stone from Italian quarries. In 1986, Cox represented Britain at the Sixth Indian Triennale in New Delhi. He went to Mahabalipuram—a centre for traditional Hindu carving, to make sculpture for the exhibition, and since that time has maintained a studio there. The carvings he made in granite from the ancient quarries of nearby Kanchipuram had a great bearing on his work over the next decade.
In 1988, he was commissioned to carve sculpture for the new Cairo Opera House, Egypt, and was allowed to quarry Imperial porphyry at Mons Porphyrytes in the Eastern Desert, which had not been used since the end of the Roman Empire. This led to new developments in his imagery, such as references to the human torso. In varying his treatment of the rich red and green stones, Cox developed his sculpture towards a more abstract state. In 1993, he completed a commission for the parish church of St Paul, Harringay, using Italian and Egyptian stones. His most recent work in Egypt was centred on the Kephren quarries in the Western Desert of southern Egypt.