Most modern cemeteries in Australia (and all over the world) are endless blocks of black granite, imported from china, and laser cut by computers. These memorials are impersonal, not necessarily the best for the environment, and to be honest, ugly. The skill of stone masonry is almost at the point of being lost, due to outsourcing and new developments of machinery that enable mass production. One such artist that is pioneering the a return to the art of the memorial is Pete Macfarlane, an stone mason/architect that is creating unique memorials around Brisbane.
Pete has a very thought out process with involves consideration of every aspect such as the rituals belonging to the memorial’s main visitors, the environments, and of course memories / history of the honored individual. Each memorial takes a long time to create, requiring many meetings with the family, so that the final piece ends up as a collaboration rather than a sculptural projection. He thinks about then memorial as site to engage with, as a place to physically rest, or change over many years as time passes. There are also many small impressive details to the work that are only meaningful to family or friends, or secrets such as small light holes that one has know about.
Pete was kind enough to take me for a tour around the city and showed me some of his work- Thanks! It was a pleasure to meet y0u and see all these incredible works of art. They are really different than anything I have seen yet this year and very inspiring.
Above is Pete in front of one of the masterpieces and a detail is below. Some people even lay on top of the memorial, spooning the figure. A memorial for a young child- one secret about this is a small hole is cut through the concrete at the top of the ellipse so that the sun will illuminate an inscription once a year on the birthday. A plot that is purposefully unbalance, sinking into the ground, with a bench where the visitors place rocks after every visit. A space for visitors to contemplate the environment, think about the past, but also enjoy life in the cemetery. Another memorial to a small child where the family can find shelter. An larger memorial for the Anzacs- this has many levels of detail including photographs, writing, symbolic in color lines, ceramic relief prints of personal objects, and a bench (not pictured). Even the lower concrete base can be used for temporary water painting. A memorial honoring the lives of a daughter and father with many personal details relating to their relationship. A detail from the above- pictures arranged on the side metal panel just like were posted on their fridge. One of the newest memorials for a young girl who died of cancer. It is a space for the family to sit and enjoy for many years to come. And finally, these are not made by Pete, but are probably the result of his influence. In the areas surrounding his work more people are staying away from black granite blocks by adding their own sculpture or gardens.