Before Northern Europe was Christianised and Romanised, writing was runic: runes were not just letters but stood for something, and Dagaz was the rune for the new day, awakening for transformation. Likewise ‘larva’ began as a Latin word for a ghost, something that moves between worlds, but developed – surprisingly perhaps – into meaning a living creature ripe for transformation, full of unguessed potential.
Dagaz, the giant swarf larva, is exhibited with its reflection, a contemplation of matter and illusion, an invitation to self-examination at the civic heart of Sheffield, an evocation of the spirits which inhabit its fabric.
When originally displayed in the foyer of Sheffield Town Hall, Anthony drew attention to Frederick Pomeroy’s beautiful bas relief friezes, on the exterior of the building and aloft above the stairs in the foyer. Here Sheffield’s grinders are acknowledged, figuratively and symbolically. Through his art, Pomeroy celebrates (as does Bennett) a living industry, brimming with skill and mastery and in hot demand when the Town Hall opened in 1897. Today, with the plight of the living grindstone at its most acute, do we simply allow the industry to slip anonymously away or do we realise its potential for rejuvenation? In modern times, the stone-grinding industry has received no entrepreneurial attention. Surely, it deserves better.
Dagaz is made from swarf, the ultra fine fragments of metal and grit produced when steel blades are being ground on stone, peculiar to this industry. Once the last grindstone stops turning, it will not be seen again. In its scarcity, could swarf itself suddenly become precious, a compounded phantom?
To create the sculpture, Anthony positioned a mould, which he had previously made for an exhibit at a natural history museum, in front of the grindstone, so that it would catch the swarf as it flew from the stone, as Brian worked. It took around four months to fill, then it was dried and demoulded to reveal the cast.
The grinder, the sculptor and the photographer. Three men in a Trow (the books say ‘trough’ but the grinders say ‘trow). What prospects for production? An illustration of three individuals spontaneously responding, through collaboration, to a notion – that we have to act, momentously, artfully and with purpose.
Given that most Sheffielders, in their innocent ignorance, have consigned the grinding industry to the past, Anthony Bennett hopes to show the city that it is still alive and kicking, to reveal it in all its modesty, and neglect, in a prominent location in the city. The Town Hall balcony is constantly adorned with advertisements for the city’s cultural events and showcases. Maybe this is the occasion to use it for something artful and purposeful: Bespoke Cutting Edge Sheffield, Manufacture, Skills, Salubrity, Posterity, Relay.