by Phil Martin
The Standing Stones and Ceremonial Sites of the Modern Era. Several years ago, as I drove around South Wales, I became aware of large stones standing on the edges of several new motorway junctions and noticed their similarity to the prehistoric stone circles and menhirs that are part of the stock in trade of the romantic landscape artist. These ancient stones have also attracted the attention of a large number of photographers, including Bill Brandt, Paul Caponigro and Fay Godwin and it occurred to me that these modern monuments could be photographed in a manner that would offer a critical response to their pastoralist vision. I also noted other monuments within Wales, that bear an even closer resemblance to ancient stone circles, the Gorsedd Stones erected for the ceremonies of the Welsh National Eisteddfod
These artificial stone circles represent the continuity of a tradition invented by the Welsh radical lolo Morganwg in 1792 and are used for the crowning of the Chief Bard. After the eisteddfod the stones are left in-situ and remain as a memorial to the event as it travels throughout the country. I soon realised that the similarity of these modem monuments to their prehistoric prototypes was not coincidental but intentional, both are used to suggest the notion of an ancient Brythonic, Celtic root to modern Welsh culture. It was also interesting to note that in the numerous conversations I had whilst trying to locate the sites of the Gorsedd Stones, many people often assumed that they were genuine ancient monuments.
The purpose of these images is twofold, firstly as a critical response to the aforementioned romantic pastoralist reading of the genuine ancient monuments and secondly, I wish to question the role of these modern imitations within contemporary Welsh culture. To question why as we rapidly approach the millennium, do we in Wales still build monuments that hark back over 2000 years to a dim and distant prehistory, a mythical past that some have described as the 'Celtic Twilight'.
Phil Martin's work was on show at Swansea Arts Workshop Gallery, Maritime Quarter, Swansea, 12th September - 31st October 1998.