Almost two years after the first great unveiling of Landskerian public art, the second instalment in the Landskerian art trail in Mynachlogddu, Pembrokeshire, was completed on Sunday 27 June, 2021, and unveiled (via the internet) as: “Wy’r Ddraig / The Dragon’s Egg”:
“Wy’r Ddrgaig / The Dragon’s Egg” is a conglomerate standing-stone constructed using locally sourced nuggets of quartz, sand, cement, and water. It was constructed gradually over the course of a year by layering the quartz and mortar from the bottom up, keeping the nuggets in place using wooden or stone supports where necessary, and patching up here and there with extra quartz to achieve a more rounded shape where deemed appropriate. The mortar was finished in a variety of hues due to inexactitude of mixing, and thus it was decided to paint it all in black bitumen, thus also offsetting the brightness of the quartz. Finally, for display purposes, a small base of broken slate encircles the bottom of the egg, and is filled with pea gravel.
Since moving to Mynachlogddu in 2017 I had been gradually piling up any quartzes I found in our garden in front of the house, with a view to doing something with them eventually. Quartz is abundant locally and it can be something of a status-symbol in rural north Pembrokeshire villages for farmhouses, cottages, or even chapels, to incorporate ostentatious displays of quartz nuggets along their boundary walls. The more quartz, the more prosperous the owner, one assumes. There are even one or two solid quartz megaliths to be found dotted around West Wales (usually as gateposts or built into the ends of walls) and I have read a presumably fictional account of a whole cottage being constructed of quartz somewhere in Llangolman. There are one or two huge chunks of quartz in the vicinity of Landskeria which I’d have liked to have used in this sculpture, but they were too big to move on my own.
I had the idea to form a sort of egg shape with the quartz before I got going, and the name of the sculpture was thus there from the start. I’ve toyed with alternative names along the way, as the shape of the thing veered from ovular to suggesting a pear, or a teardrop, or eventually – as more than one person has already suggested – a poo. It turns out that making an egg shape out of quartz isn’t as easy as it doesn’t look. But I think I got distracted from the purity of the egg shape early on by the desire to extend the structure to form a point at the top: thus to incorporate one small nugget of rose quartz I found on the moor five years ago. Most of the quartz in the sculpture is of a yellowy-orange hue, which is the commonest in the vicinity. One or two bits are pinkish, like rice-pudding with jam mixed in. There are also a few unusual ruddy/irony parts, which might not even be quartz at all. But that one little lump of rose quartz is a foreign element – more translucent, and undoubtedly shop-bought before it was lost or abandoned at the place I found it.
So… the shape of the “egg” was modified as it went along to result in something more akin to a conventional (even cartoonish) bronze-age megalith: a sort of middling standing-stone or a cow’s rubbing-post. One is remined by the shape of the menhirs (“meini hirion” in Welsh) that Obelix the Gaul used to carry around in the Asterix comics. But if we were being literal, any kind of reptile egg would probably be smooth and white, more round than ovular, and much smaller than this. (Indeed, how big are dragons?) What’s more, the dragon on the Welsh flag has six limbs – four legs and two wings – suggesting a biological anomaly that doesn’t occur anywhere in the vertebrate kingdom as far as I’m aware. Thus the anatomical improbability of the legendary creature, as commonly depicted, can perhaps allow for a fantastical representation extending to its reproductive vessels.
I love quartz. My wife hates quartz. As a result there were negotiations about what might be done with the quartz I was collecting, and where in the garden that thing might be allowed to be done. I doubled down on the former. But while I had suggested constructing the quartz sculpture in the middle of our lawn (at the centre of the stone circle I erected last year and have yet to write about on here) my wife was insistent that this would produce an unacceptable impediment to the already-difficult job of mowing that area. So I would be allowed to pursue my project in another location, ideally far from the road, the house, the car-park, and the aforementioned lawn. I compromised and decided to erect the sculpture alongside the public-footpath which extends through the length of our land, in-between two of my sheds. This way my wife couldn’t see it out of any of our windows; but it would be easily accessible by anybody who might want to look at it.
The sculpture was always intended to be primarily an aesthetic exercise. But just as I wanted it to be of its physical environment, I felt it ought to be able to speak to its cultural and intellectual context as well. What with the upsurge of national independence movements in the smaller UK countries during my lifetime, and the excitement spreading among Welsh nationalists in the wake of the Scottish referendum and the advent of the “Yes Cymru” movement, the theme of resurgent Welsh nationalism was the obvious metaphor to draw inspiration from for this piece. Metaphorically, the dragon serves as a dormant beast ready to burst forth at any time and exact its revenge for the crimes committed against its kind. Literally, of course, the egg is not an egg and thus contains no dragon. It mostly contains quartz and mortar, although there is some ordinary rock within to fill the spaces; and its structural secret is that it is held upright into a concrete base by a long metal-and-wood shaft that was formerly a small part of the machinery of the disused woollen mill in our garden. You could use this as a further metaphor to suggest that Welsh independence must have industry at it’s heart, if you like. But I wouldn’t bother.
While I will continue to refer to the thing as “The Dragon’s Egg” (or using the Welsh equivalent) I think the destiny of this piece, as with many other aesthetically polarizing interpretative public sculptures, is probably to invite alternative names from those who do not deem the official one adequate. In that way, if in no other, I hope it encourages creativity and inquiry among its audience, and thus does what I consider to be its job as art.
In the event of Wales achieving full independence and statehood during my lifetime, I promise I will make a gift of The Dragon’s Egg to the first head of the newly independent Welsh state. However, they will have to come to Landskeria and collect the sculpture in person; and while recognition of the independence of Landskeria is not a necessary condition for the acceptance of the gift, the acceptance of the gift and the collection of it will in fact be interpreted by Landskeria as a recognition of Landskerian independence from the Welsh state.
A Velky, 2021.