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Stephen Cox - Yatra

Granite, 2004

Stephen Cox - Vishnu Form

Black Granite, 2004

Stephen Cox - Portal

Green Hammamat breccia, 2003

Stephen Cox - Honey Lingham

Black Indian basalt, 1987 - 2004

Stephen Cox - Dreadnought, problems of history (search for the hidden stone)

Imperial Porphyry. 2004

Stephen Cox - Conjunction

Black Indian basalt. 2004

Stephen Cox - Clee Hill

Black basalt 'dhustone'

Dreadnought, Problems of History (search for the hidden stone)

1990-2004, Imperial porphyry

One of the most significant events in Cox’s career was his encounter with the mysteries of Egyptian Imperial porphyry. In 1989, an expedition to the ancient quarry at Mons Porphyrites in Egypt’s Eastern Desert led him to this stone - once regarded as the exclusive preserve of the Roman Emperor - which he was granted the privilege to quarry for his own work.

Dreadnought is an acknowledgement of the history of this extraordinary purple stone, the hardest in the world, which also fascinated and challenged Renaissance artists.

This piece has been in progress for 15 years but in many ways is much older: it is effectively a collaboration between Stephen Cox and the unknown Roman stone quarrymen who had started preparing this 3 ton lump more that 1,500 years ago. In the manner of a search for a hidden core, Cox continued his predecessor’s work by hewing out softer bits of rock, shaping and polishing it to expose more of the precious purple porphyry. A piece similar in scale, Chrysalis, which was aquired by the Tate, references mummification and re-birth.

Stephen Cox

Stephen Cox was born in Bristol and studied sculpture at the Central School of Art and Design. He first made his reputation as a maker of minimalist works in exhibitions at the Lisson Gallery.

In 1979, after he left England for Italy, his sculpture quickly changed. Now carving in stone, he produced circular reliefs of modest dimensions. One in particular, We must always turn South, purchased by the Tate Gallery, was inspired by the writings of Adrian Stokes who, in his own love of the Italian Renaissance had also succumbed to the art of the Mediterranean.

Cox worked in Italy for the next five years; after exhibitions in London, Geneva, New York and Rome, he was invited by the British Council to represent Britain in the Indian Triennale. While researching and making work for the exhibition, he immersed himself in the art of the subcontinent and became fascinated by the fusion of the sexual and the spiritual. He no longer worked in soft marbles and tuffa but in the hardness of black granite. In 1986, having been awarded a Gold Medal at the Triennale, he also had a one-man show at the Tate Gallery. Cox has been working and maintaining a studio in India ever since.

In 1989 he was commissioned by the British Government to produce work for the Opera House in Cairo. Through this he was able to realise a long held ambition to work in Imperial porphyry, a purple voluptuous yet dauntingly hard material, once regarded as the exclusive preserve of the Roman Emperor. In the late 1990s, Cox embarked on a new series of sculptures called Interior Spaces, which marked a recognition of both his minimalist roots and his fascination with the Italian Renaissance. The series was exhibited on the Piazza del Duomo in Sienna and one sculpture in the series, Shrine was exhibited in the celebrated National Gallery’s Encounters exhibition. Cox now has a working studio in South Shropshire.

Through his work, as in life, Cox travels to the heart of diverse cultures, spiritualities and aesthetics, charting a profoundly individual yet also universal ‘Mappa Mundi’.

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