Simon Linington collects earth and
minerals into stalwart landmarks
By Kate Mothes
In the mid-1800s, Queen Victoria was gifted with a special souvenir from the Isle of Wight containing layers of colorful sand collected from Alum Bay. The area’s cliffs, which are now protected to prevent erosion, contain sand of quartz, felspar, and mica that mix with other minerals to produce 21 distinct colors. Simon Linington, who grew up on the island in the English Channel, remembers school trips where he filled glass bottles or tubes with layers of earthy colors. Since 2020, the artist has been working on a series of sculptures and installations that draw on this childhood pastime, reimagining it into a dialogue with diverse surroundings around the world.
Linington’s site-specific installations stand sentry-like in their chosen locations, incorporating materials that naturally occur in the area. “I use materials collected from the surrounding environment to fill my sculptures because I want people to look at them and think, ‘It belongs here,'” he says. By extension, they express a sense of “you are here,” a marker of the physical landscape and a reminder of the human impact on it over time. The sculptures are filled with a range of soil, rubble, and stones that relate directly to the landscape and history of the site, broken down with a hammer into fine grain and layered inside a vessel.
When making one of the tall glass columns called Bajo la Ruta at the Olympic Park in Mexico City—which lies in a designated ecological zone—the artist saw the opportunity to use lava rock for the first time. Bajo la Ruta translates to “under the route,” referencing the subterranean world beneath our feet. “We also found a lot of asphalt that had been dumped in the ground and covered with soil during the making of the Anillo Periferico, the highway connecting the north and south of the city,” he says. “Like the lava rock, it tells us something about the story of the city and thats why I decided to use both materials in my sculpture.”
Compositional studies loosely plot out how the different layers will interact before the sculpture is filled, so Linington can swap out different materials and colors until the piece looks balanced and complements its surroundings—a relationship that is as important as the materials used to make the sculpture itself. “I want (viewers) to think about the environment the sculpture is in and enjoy thinking about it and appreciate it,” he says. “The environment has a constantly changing story to tell us, and it’s one we’re a part of. We have an impact and the power to decide whether it’s positive.”
In May, Linington plans to complete a piece titled Too Much Water, Too Close to Home, in Schouwen-Duiveland, the Netherlands, to mark the 70th anniversary of a flood known locally as The Disaster, which caused widespread damage and claimed more than 1,800 lives. His sculptures can also be seen in Sierra Maria-Los Velez Natural Park in Andalucia, Spain, Canary Wharf Estate in London, and at the Stadhuismuseum Zierikzee in the Netherlands.
“The environment has a constantly changing story to tell us, and it's one we’re a part of. We have an impact and the power to decide whether it's positive.”
“I use materials collected from the surrounding environment to fill my sculptures because I want people to look at them and think, 'It belongs here.'”
All images © Simon Linington
Header image: Bajo la Sierra Larga
Side-by-side details: (left) Bajo la Sierra Larga; (right) Bajo la Ruta