Glynis Owen


Glynis Owen

Ancaster Limestone

96 x 20 x 16 cm

“Carving and calm time to work has made me feel fit and well and remain positive.”

Glynis Owen

Glynis’s Lockdown Story

‘I had breast cancer and radiotherapy last year and on the advice of the doctor to stay socially isolated I started work on the first one metre tall block of limestone, which, along with two other blocks, had been waiting for action in my studio throughout last year. I began working on the stone carving at the start of lockdown. The diagonal saw cuts were originally planned for an abstract piece but while isolating all these catastrophic figures crept into the carving!

‘Journey’ came from weeks of daily carving, vivid dreams and watching the shocking news coverage of what was happening in hospitals and care homes. It reflects my feelings about the medical teams and key workers who have supported the sick and tried to save lives. The viewer can guess their narrative rather like a story or comic book. Figures emerged like medieval carvings with an almost biblical sense of the pandemic. At the top of the column is a single head, a god-like looking down on the struggle. The recovering figures, supported and assisted, climb in an upward direction. The figures falling in a downward direction are caught and supported by others.

The last exhibition I saw before my year of cancer was ‘Modigliani’ at Tate Modern. The tall narrow block of my second carving suggested an elongated head and ‘Boy with a Quiff’ emerged, his shaved head and contrasting gelled quiff style reflecting those adolescent years of experimenting with identity.

The last carving, ‘Rhythm of Life’ finished at the end of lockdown has a more optimistic outlook with the simple lines and movement of dancing figures.

Rhythm of Life, Glynis Owen. Ancaster Limestone.
Boy with a Quiff, Glynis Owen. Ancaster limestone.

From the start of lockdown the air was warm and a sense of peace and quiet seemed to prevail. The sky became bluer, the sun shone brighter and bird song filled the air. The road became empty of passing cars and the constant background drone of planes ceased.  It felt like stepping into a shiny new world. The need to self-isolate, peace and quiet with unlimited time to work offered a new way of life I could previously only dreamed about. There was a poignancy to all this, a precious time, an almost guilty experience as the daily news coverage revealed the unfolding nightmare of the pandemic.

The three large blocks of beautiful limestone stood in my studio throughout 2019. I had received a breast cancer diagnoses at the start of that year, surgery and then the discovery of more breast cancer, further surgery and radiotherapy, which took up the remainder of the year.

I have worked as a sculptor for fifty years but there were times during last year when I doubted that I would be able to work and carve stone again. In spite of this doubt I developed a special relationship with the stone over those difficult months. The three tall stone blocks stood beacon-like in my studio inviting me to realize the imagery within.

With the first announcement of lockdown I was advised by my doctor to be vigilant in social isolating. This was key to taking up hammer and chisel to make the first impression on the stone block.

The experience of lockdown gave me the opportunity to have time free of other commitments. The achievement of tackling what had seemed a near impossible task of carving three large sculptures in stone have given me a new confidence and a focus that I can now build on and develop my work in new directions. Carving and calm time to work has made me feel fit and well and remain positive.’

Text and images © Glynis Owen

Burgh House
New End Square