Jim Carter

At the end of the garden there were spaces of scrub and briar, and a line of trees that divided the house from fields and farmland. In that small wilderness I found the axis which would become the torso of the brute: a broken piece of what I thought was blackthorn wood or cherry. Torsos mean everything to the work - the seat of viscera, of voice, of fundamental beginnings and endings - and so it was that I had at first the body of the horse in the branch, for this I instinctively knew was its animal.

At that time a sense of Marini came to my imagination, and a feeling for the tragic, of falling into the abyss. I resisted however the notion of absolute ruin for I knew that always in my work there must be some labour towards healing and atonement. So when a few months later the figure was near enough to its final form, and I had tried him in an infinite number of postures and configurations, all on the brink of descent, I knew that I had not listened to the early advice of my inner knowing.

The difference was made I think by the female form, which originally I had intended as a separate piece altogether: a proto Magdalene arching in her pain as the woman possessed by many demons. That sense has remained within the work but her nature changed somewhat when she became the horse's burden, or the plight of the animal became for her a dreadful knowledge. Attaching the figure to the stallion suggested to me the equanimity for which I had been searching - well, not the final coming together of body and psyche in harmony, but at least the energy that can take us towards that state. The work as a whole reaches for the median which is the sun at midday or the solstice, a point that can be reached but which cannot of course be sustained. So it was that I tried instead to maintain the journey towards it, never ending, and thus the whole became a statement about hope and the eternal striving of the spirit.

The woman had from the beginning the single leg and hoof of the horse, which was not intended but became paramount in my thinking. As if she had not already been in enough pain, her disability became infectious, with the horse brought into her world of dismemberment and suffering. With his hind legs and foreleg severed, his posture became that of the jument, the beast of burden. The thought came to me then of broken artefacts from the ancient world and how modern man had sought to mount these dreaming amputees on rods of iron. Deep time entered the piece, along with my animistic faith: the heathen and the pagan, the classic and the modern, the refined and the grotesque.

Over time it became clear that the leitmotif was the dichotomy in the work and its yearning for synergy: male-female, ability-disability, falling-rising, moon-sun, human-brute. old-new, valley-mountain and so on. It occurred to me too that both species had sexual organs that in some way, for better or worse, had been transformed - once more unintentional but poignant in its relation to the quest for communion. The horse, a gelding, has been castrated; the woman, naked and vulnerable, offers abundance, each supporting the other after the fashion of its gender and differing physical or psychological states.

But even without sexual power, there is no lack of potency for the beast, no restrictions on its will to support and rescue. Even though blemished and wounded, the woman is in a posture of trust and openness and perhaps beneficence towards the brute. He moves onwards as if from battle, fleeing the abyss of the Anthropocene. For sure, he is a war horse and the woman a shield maiden, prehistoric and atavistic; but the war is the interior battle of opposing forces and the shifting of the human psyche as it goes in and out of relation with a landscape that for me has always been particularly English. I had always identified with this original spirit of the natural world, for how of course could it be otherwise, and though the heart can be sensitive to all living things it cannot help but come from its own soil that gives it the fire and the sustenance. So the work, from the material to the thought, from the shape to the symbol, is rooted in the English earth and the English animal. It is an embodiment of a primal dance, wild and visceral, an original myth from an English vessel.

So within the piece there are multiple ideas looking for redemption in song and chorus, and it comes from the hips, through the gut and the body and out through the head as a hymn for all creatures. The horse gravitates towards a story of animal grace, of power and suffering, as does the woman, although she seems too much an encumbrance, suggesting a commentary on relationships, between the man and the woman, between the human and the beast. Out of all my pieces it has taken the longest to fulfil and it was only that final moment of tension and violence that made the work, when I swung the hammer down on the head of the horse that I could not for the life of me make see the future or past. In so doing its vision became clear, and the pattern flowed at last through the work and was content.

Perhaps it was in that moment that I found my own unlooked-for equilibrium, both as a man and human being: how the work related to my own journey and preoccupations and how it could be so for others. The shared fate and internal struggle of beauty and brute reveals our own share in this world of compassion and conflict. It is a strange thing, for the strike came down just at that time a horse and rider appeared before me in the road. I had a gut feeling: the spirit, fully observed and polarized, had entered at last the simulacrum; the Body of Earth (for such is the figure’s ultimate image, tender and broken yet undefeated) had marshalled its essence of mercy and hope.