Westgate Proposal

Stratigraphic Matrix of the Holocene Epoch, 2016
Modus Operandi
Oxford Westgate Development
Oxford, UK

The Stratigraphic Matrix of the Holocene Epoch is a proposed site- specific artwork for the Oxford Westgate development. It is a wall-based sculpture situated on the Middle Square escalator wall comprising of a strata of architectural materials distinct to this historic site. The proposed artwork has significance within the context of Oxford’s rich history whilst also maintaining a contemporary relevance reflecting the city’s role as vibrant and notable place within the UK and internationally.

Stratigraphic Matrix of the Holocene Epoch consists of three materials, which maintain a strong relationship to Oxford and the Westgate development itself. The three materials include the original structural timbers of the Greyfriars friary, the original excavated stone, and sections of illuminated leaded glass panels. The materials are layered and repeated in a form implicit to a geological formation evoking a perceivable sense of history and time.

This proposed artwork uses both architecture and geology as a metaphor to comprehend the significance of this outstanding location. Oxford itself is a time capsule of English history, representing well-preserved examples of architecture from the late Saxon period to the present. The notion of Oxford being the oldest university of the English-speaking world is exemplified at Oxford’s Westgate. The Greyfriars friary was a place of significance and discovery for pioneers in philosophy, optics, alchemy, English scientific method, and many other fields.

Stratigraphic Matrix of the Holocene Epoch employs the physical building materials of the place where these ground-breaking ideas were pioneered. These materials are charged with a historical reverence drawing upon a connection to the essence of Oxford itself. These historical layers will be sculpted around sections of illuminated leaded glass panels, a distinct feature in Oxford’s built environment. These illuminated panels are the link through the expanse of time being considered in this piece. The colour and intensity of the light emanating from the leaded glass will embody distinct morning, afternoon, and evening qualities, changing almost imperceptibly throughout the day.

Middle Square is an ideal location for public art as it offers a viewer a multitude of viewpoints and physical means to experience the work. The proximity of the artwork to the adjacent escalator will create a unique experience for a viewer. Whether a viewer is ascending or descending the escalator along side Stratigraphic Matrix of the Holocene Epoch, they will be implicitly moving through the architectural history of this remarkable location.

The form of this sculptural stratum was directly inspired by my experience of the Westgate excavation. Oxford’s prehistoric landscape, the flood plain, dictated the original location of the Greyfriars monastery and Oxford’s Westgate precinct wall. Over time, this location gave way to the Paradise Garden, the parish of St. Ebbes, and subsequently, the development of Oxford’s Westgate today.

Though this proposed artwork contains materials that have been used in Oxford’s built environment throughout the past millennia, the geological form of this artwork evokes a much longer span of pre-historical time. The title of this work refers to the complexity of this site’s physical history in context of the geological epoch we are arguably at the end of now. It is my ambition that this proposed artwork; Stratigraphic Matrix of the Holocene Epoch will bring the residence and visitors of Oxford closer to these compelling histories in context of this contemporary manifestation of this site.