I first met Claire Davenhall several years ago, as an entrant to the annual outdoor sculpture exhibition I coordinate for my day job. Claire made an impression on everyone at the exhibition: partly because she's quite physically small, and she had a habit of lugging things like 8 foot high, solid steel shark fins up and down the beach, but also because there was a time where she seemed to coincide the exhibition with the birth of her children-- giant shark fins are one thing; giant shark fins being lugged about by she-must-be-ready-any-moment pregnant women is a whole different class of funny!
I've had the very great pleasure of watching Claire's art practice grow over the intervening years, and frankly, I'm taking credit: she's my discovery, and now that she's exhibiting at things like Sculpture by the Sea and Swell Sculpture Festival on a regular basis, it's about time I got my finder's fee.....
You can see Claire's work on her website. She's a fantastic talent, a lovely person, and as you're about to read, a real weepy :)
Precious Things: Claire Davenhall
Most people who know me, know me as Claire Davenhall the Visual Artist or Miss D if you happen to be one of my students. But there is a side that most people don’t know about, its a quiet, hidden side which remains largely undiscovered, my love of mountains and climbing.
My most precious literary treasure was given to me by my climbing partner to read during my Art Degree Show in 2000. We both knew of its existence, long before it was even written and when I finally got a hard copy in my hands, it's the first book I read cover to cover in one sitting. It made me cry out loud.... And in the quietness of the gallery space, it seemed to amplify my cries and made people come over and ask me if I was okay???
This book still haunts me... I dream about this book at pivotal moments in my life... It’s the story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates climbing the West Face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, a true story of two climbers following their dreams and facing their demons. The climax of the book is after they reach the summit; Joe breaks his leg and is helped back down the mountain by Simon. Unable to hear Joe’s cries for help, Simon unknowingly lowers him into a crevasse. Faced with being dragged over the edge to his death, Simon makes the decision to cut the rope to save himself.
It’s a questionable act in climbing, whether to cut the rope to save yourself and leave your partner for dead. Many hope they never find themselves in this situation. But in this case, Joe survives the fall and believes Simon must still be on the other end. As he pulls on the rope, expecting to feel Simon, he discovers the rope has been cut… It’s gut wrenching and heart breaking, reading his account of how he pushed himself to the limit of human endurance to survive.
Joe never once blamed Simon for his actions, but simply dedicates the book: ‘To Simon Yates for a debt he can never pay.’
The book is so beautifully written. In 2003, Touching the Void was made into a film and I had the honour to watch a preview in the Lake District where they showed the film in Ambleside at the local Church. The reverence in the church by the climbing community was astounding and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
‘Its not just a book about mountaineering. Ultimately it is about the spirit of man and the lifeforce that drives us all.’ Magnus Magnusson
NB: I still sleep with my ropes safely under my bed… dreaming of the mountains I still have yet to climb!
For more info: http://touchingthevoid.com