'Custodians Of The Landscape'
This sensational rock collection at Two Rivers Wines, was carved in 2015 by international sculptor Ben Dearnley and unveiled by iconic film star Sigrid Thornton. More than 28 tonnes of stone sourced from the vineyard were used to create this project. The stone is Triassic Narrabeen Sandstone, laid down 200 million years ago under ancient rivers and wetlands. About 15 million years ago, erupting volcanoes covered the area in basalt, which has eroded away over time, uncovering this ancient landscape. Iron in the basalt leached through the sandstone to leave the hard, red bands of ironstone that can be seen today in some cliffs, particularly along the Goulburn River. Natural springs and rivers are gradually eroding the sandstone, creating the fantastical formations and gorges to be seen in the hills behind Two Rivers and further west into the Upper Hunter Valley and south into Wollemi National Park. The region’s Narabeen Sandstone is renowned for its abundance of carved and painted Aboriginal rock art. Ben Dearnley’s work at Two Rivers directly references this ancient work and the landscape itself, with its dramatic moods and seasons – a continuous flow of change also reflected in the work at Two Rivers, where growing the vines is a labour of love in tune with nature itself.
The vortex of spirals leads our eye into the aperture, itself shaped like an eye. Through this space we see the distant hill named after William Ogilvie, the founder of Denman in 1853. The significance is one of looking – specifically, looking onto and across the vineyards and the landscape beyond. We can see how this special part of the valley has been looked after by the family of vintners here and further afield to the farms beyond.
This 4.8-tonne stone also features a map reference of the two rivers, the Hunter and the Goulburn, along with a depiction of a Blue Tongue who is carved into the east face.
The stone is placed to capture the rising sun on the important days in the vineyard’s calendar. It is a direct link to those ancient megalithic structures erected thousands of years ago in Northern Europe, such as Stonehenge, and acts as a calendar itself. By standing on the appropriate stone in the car park you can see through the aperture in the Mother Stone to the significant event of that time of year – for example, the Summer Solstice or the opening of the first bud on the vines.
The viewer is witness to this moment in time and by looking through the eye of the stone is reminded that we must continue to look after our precious lands, protect them, preserve them and keep them safe for future generations.
The following poem captures in words what has been carved in stone, written by renowned Australian poet Amanda Limon. Below this are detailed images of the full series of sculptures which surround the Mother stone.
The soft, warm whisper of first light
Casts a glow across the land
And catches curved and jagged edge
Carved, in stone of sand
With loving hands and passionate heart
With expertise and skill
Each sculptured piece now brought to life
A compelling force of will
Custodians, they stand with pride –
On guard…..such strength and power
With silent, gentle admonition
A rich and ancient dower
‘Neath blazing sun, under shroud of mist
Awashed with wind and rains
Ever watching ….. vine and valley
The hillsides and the plains
A Mother Stone, a Giant
A Goddess, so serene
A Vine, impossible it seems
A vineyard King and Queen
A confluence of rivers
A monumental peak
A glint of golden sunshine
A vortex, smooth and sleek
An eye to form a window –
To view the valley’s worth
It’s ever changing landscape
Our wonderous, precious earth
19th July 2015
The design of this series of sculpted stones was to include creating a 'space' for the visitors to the winery to be able to sit and enjoy the surrounding vineyard while taking a glass of fine wine. The following stones form an inner circle, a wonderful place to relax and watch the ever changing light fall across the vines and sculptures alike.
The Harvest/Table Stone
The oval shape of this stone is a powerful reference to the nature of the feminine. The figurehead is carved as a reflection of Ceres, the Roman goddess of the harvest and abundance. She is looking directly towards the point on the distant mountains where the midsummer sun rises. She welcomes the time of year when the harvest takes place here. Ceres was also important as a mother, and as we sit around this low table and eat and drink the fruits of the labours of this land, we are encouraged to remember this amazing gift of life we have all been given.
Listening Stone – seat 1
Positioned just to the left of the Mother Stone, this sitting stone forms the left outer edge of the circle. The overall shape of this stone is one of an ear – hence the Listening Stone. At one end of the stone is a carved mass of grapes ready for harvest, differing in texture from course to super-fine on the bottom.This stone is also known for its Sleeping Giant depicted at the far end. Inspiration also came from the mountain top to the south of the vineyard known locally as Giant’s Grave, where legend has it that the giant sleeps.
Sit here and listen to the sounds of the landscape and absorb the tranquillity of the valley. This stone also references the Goulburn River, which is often known as a sleeping giant, since it runs much of the time underground and can change into a raging monster during very wet weather. But, be careful not to waken the giant!
Talking Stone – seat 2. The Impossible Vine
This seating stone forms the right hand outer edge of the circle. The overall shape of this stone suggests a mouth and is gently carved with smooth hollows, it is a comfortable place to sit and chat as you enjoy your Two Rivers wine. A wonderful fossilised piece of timber within the stone sparked the inspiration for the carving on the back, which now incorporates this 200 million-year-old fossil. The carving itself, a shallow relief of a single, impossible vine, incorporates leaves from four of the vineyard’s award-winning wines – from right to left: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Semillon. A tendril winds round to the front and forms a single bunch of grapes from which a heart shape tendril is carved to represent the passion of the family of vintners here.
As you drive up to the vineyard you pass the Guardian. This triple stack of stones, weighing over 7 tonnes, stands tall and imposing. Looking up into the heavens, the carved figurehead has the wisdom of old age, and his fearsome look is a deterrent to those who might try to tip the balance of nature in this rich and fertile valley. He guards the vineyard and all the surrounding area. Below him is a reference to the vineyard with the twin lines representing the two dominant waterways, the Hunter and Goulburn rivers.
This seating stone sits alone and looks back across the Cellar Door towards the main feature stones in the collection. Carved in detail we find the King and Queen of the vineyard, entwined within the foliage, made from the very vines and grape that surround them and are carved with a reference to the Green Man. Together they represent the patriarchal nature of the creators of this outstanding vineyard.
This is a seat for quiet reflection and equally for fun and games, as Stella of Two Rivers, shows!
This is carved with a typeface specific to Two Rivers, along with the date the vineyard was established, 1988, carved in Roman numerals. This method of dating connects Ben’s process of carving with the Ancient Greek stone sculptors; a continuous thread of creative inspiration and skill over thousands of years.
The Logo Stone stands as a solitary figurehead to the vineyard with a simple intervention creating dramatic shadows. These graphic lines and planes capture the contemporary nature of the Two Rivers vineyard in this ancient-style standing stone.
"It has been an epic journey and one which will stay with me for many years to come, a rare privilege to be able to create work in such a special landscape with the best team possible at Two Rivers. I look forward to returning in the not too distant future for one of their award winning wines and possibly a glass of port just for good measure. Many thanks must go to Brett and Linda Keeping for all their help and commitment to this project, to Ross Pitts and to all the staff at Two Rivers for making this such a rewarding project, I could not have done this without your support."
Ben Dearnley August 2015
In June of 2015 Ben Launched the Upper Hunter Art Trail with his works in 3 different locations across this spectacular region of NSW. Muswellbrook Regional Arts Gallery, Two Rivers Wines Denman and David Mahony's Art Gallery in Sandy Hollow.