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Review: A Limestone Glossary

06 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Mari Rose Pritchard (R) and Julie Upmeyer.

Meg Pirie

I’m reviewing a new publication that treads the fine line between art object and reference book, entitled ‘a limestone glossary’ which has come across my desk by authors Mari Rose Pritchard and Julie Upmeyer.

Rather fittingly my desk is an old Victorian washstand made of walnut with a marble top – marble being a metamorphic form originating from limestone.

Once I turn to the first few pages, I quickly realise this is an experiment into the possibilities of a glossary in the visual sense.


The contents quickly transport me to a time when limestone quarries were prevalent along the Welsh coast from Aber and Moelfre to Penmon – and how limestone shaped monumental icons, such as Caernarfon Castle and Menai’s bridge to Istanbul’s city walls over 3,000 km away.

Istanbul isn’t a surprising addition to the book once you know of the co-author Julie’s connections to this place. One of her daughters was born there and she worked as a successful artist for a number of years in Istanbul.

However, on the artists’ intuitive journey through limestone as a material, they quickly discovered how Wales and Turkey’s culture overlapped through ancient folk tales into the more tangible built world.

Perhaps what cements the power between material and place is the constantly evolving working language between the artists, in both Wales and through their artist residency in Turkey.

What follows is a multifaceted approach to limestone as a material and by-product across multiple places, manifesting itself in English, Welsh and Turkish.

A Limestone Glossary

Of the importance of the representative nature of language, Julie said: “We were really inspired by the idea of a project-specific collection of terminology based on our own direct experiences and encounters with limestone and limestone dust.

“We invited the four contributors not only to write glossary entries based on their own limestone experiences in their own language, but to annotate our entries in their own handwriting, as one might naturally do with a reference book taken outdoors to accompany field research.”

The book emerges from an ongoing project between the artists entitled ‘Void Fraction’. The collaboration began with an exhibition proposal and a seemingly simple line of enquiry into the physical and conceptual permeability of Caernarfon Castle’s walls.

This led the artists to the only remaining active limestone quarry on Anglesey, Aber Quarry and down a path of other-worldliness as they encountered what was to them an entirely new material – limestone powder.

Repeated visits to the quarry have produced a wide range of artistic outputs including performance, installation, sculpture, video and texts.


Of limestone as a material and encompassing Void Fraction, Julie said:“As soon as we went to the quarry, we were transfixed by the limestone dust mountain and the creamy white pool of limestone paste.

“It was like a moonscape and caught us totally off guard. We experienced first hand the unique relationship that limestone has with water – as a part of its creation and ultimately its destruction. Limestone is always in transition.”

Julie’s words from our conversation ring in my ears, “A book, once published, becomes an active force out in the world, a tool to encounter one’s environment.”

As I close the book and place it back onto the marble surface, I notice perhaps for the first time, how cold and smooth it is.

Having just dived into the inner workings of ‘Void Fraction’ through the glossary, I am struck by the process the marble has gone through to exist within my little cottage as a desk, and imagine the book having gone through a similar type of metamorphosis.

You can order a copy of A Limestone Glossary here. 

Click here for more on the artists Mari Rose Pritchard and Julie Upmeyer

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