Studio Nathan Coley

In Memory 2010


Permanent Sculpture
7.5 m x 7.5m x 2.4m
Poured Concrete, Grass, Gravel, Steel, Dead Tree, Recycled Headstones


Jupiter Artland, Bonnington House, Scotland

Photo Credit

Keith Hunter

In Memory

Dr Katrina Brown

In the gently rolling, wooded grounds of Jupiter Artland, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, In Memory (2010) is a permanent installation comprising a concrete enclosure, which contains what appears to be a small, private graveyard, not dissimilar to those family burial sites to be found within many a private estate. The enclosure is a stark square, open to the elements and entered through a single, narrow aperture, the width of which is defined by the width of the artist’s shoulders. It is encroached by a single tree, a large branch of which rests on the upper edge of one side of the enclosure, but the tree itself is long dead, offering some pleasing form but no foliage.

Within the enclosure stand a number of headstones. They are quite clearly real headstones, rather than facsimiles, retrieved from burial sites. Yet, for one reason or another, they have been removed from the places for which they were made. The stones are clearly aged, preexisting, in effect “ready-made” objects retrieved from where they have been discarded. They appear here with one small but significant alteration: the name of the deceased has been excised from each stone, leaving only a blank: a negative space exposing fresh, unpolished stone. Surrounded by neat grass, some leafy planting, and accompanied by steel sculptural elements that combine the form of a headstone with a more industrial aesthetic, the lives marked are here anonymous. These very physical, material markers of lives lost have in their own way become lost, only to be gathered here. All that remains is the stone and the apparent labor of their making.

Though devoid of name, each stone retains its individuality through the remaining wording and imagery carved into its surface. Only meager, bald facts remain: dates, relationships. Words proclaim enduring memory, at odds here now with the stones’ reality as salvage. The removal
of the names of course reminds us now of nothing more so than many an official, confidential document, contents edited, key details obliterated for “security reasons,” released to enquiries and investigative journalists. In so doing it introduces the idea of privacy and protection in
the public realm, the sense of public space amplified through the planting—and the one included bench—being decidedly municipal in appearance.

Just as Coley’s earlier works, The Lamp of Sacrifice (Birmingham, 2000, and Edinburgh, 2004) looked at the physical manifestation of faith in a city, or rather organized religion, through a gathering of cardboard models of every place of worship listed in a phone directory, In Memory creates a different gathering, a place of coming together. It contrasts the immutable physical existence of the stones with the most immaterial and transient of concepts.

Jupiter Artland

Hugh Pearman

"Best of all in this vein is Nathan Coley’s 'In Memory'. This appears to be a small graveyard, contained within rough concrete walls on the edge of the woods. The tombstones and their inscriptions, from several religions, are real, but all the names have been chiselled out. He has added a pair of specially made anonymous iron graves and crosses, which gives the place a rather Mediterranean feel.

The gardening is municipal. It is a construct, yet completely believable. You can sit there — the only place on the trail where you can sit — and brood on mortality and memory. The absence of names makes it more powerful: it could be anyone, it could be people you knew, it might be waiting for you yourself. This is one of the most singularly effective pieces of new sculpture I’ve come across in years......"

taken from the Sunday Times - 01.05.11